To the Founding Fathers, there was no authority higher than the individual mind, not King George, not God, not society. Reason, wrote Ethan Allen, is "the only oracle of man," and Thomas Jefferson advised us to "fix reason firmly in her seat and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God." That is the meaning of independence: trust in your own judgment, in reason; do not sacrifice your mind to the state, the church, the race, the nation, or your neighbors.
This excerpt from an article Michael Berliner wrote a couple of years ago reminds us how radical were the ideas of the Founding Fathers. Shamefully, these ideas are nearly as radical (and possibly more so) now as they were then, a testament to how much philosophical ground has been lost in the last century or so. If we are to save the country in which freedom has been most dearly earned, we must convince Americans to "question with boldness" the overwhelming demands to accept sacrifice as noble and moral, and to pursue their own selfish interests, their own happiness, with the confidence that it is right to do so.
This I address to the Americans of the world, where you may still be found: Happy Independence Day.
Michael Berliner, "Put the Independence Back in Independence Day,"1 Jul 2009, Capitalism Magazine, "http://www.capitalismmagazine.com/culture/5217-put-the.html".
Image from capmag.com.