In Celebration of American Independence from the British Crown

July 4th, 2011, marks 235 years since our stumbling experiment in democracy threw off the shackles of colonialism and inaugurated a new way of organizing society. The founders of this country refused to pay treasure (or respect) to a British Monarchy that afforded them no parliamentary representation, no say in how their taxes were spent.

More than two centuries later we’re still beholden to the Crown. The royals who hold sway over our imaginations (and media outlets) change names and haircuts, but they’re still our ancestral betters, our inexplicable ideal. Which is to say: rich and powerful.

Why a true American would be slavishly devoted to the vacation itinerary of princes and princesses can’t be found in modern history books. You need to look back farther. To ancient Rome.

Bread and circuses worked then and they work still.

The stakeholder classes have a powerful incentive to keep their underlings down below, where they belong, to do the work and endure the indignities so that the faux royals above them may live in something like luxury. We must educate the masses — but not too much. We don’t want them figuring out how badly gaffed the system is, how profoundly injust and inequitable it is. A collective epiphany would eventually mean revolution, and those are never as fun and harmless as setting off a bunch of fireworks.

No taxation without representation! Does the average American have the slightest idea what his taxes are used for? While the Democrats fight with the Republicans, keeping up appearances that they’re not interchangeable players on the same Money Team, we continue to employ hundreds of thousands of otherwise unemployable mercenaries (and the largely third-world support staff needed to feed, clean, and entertain them) in two foreign occupations. Call them police actions, call them “wars,” call them whatever. They still cost us billions of dollars. Every day. Us — me, you, everyone else who pays taxes in the United States of America. This is how we’ve chosen to spend our money. And almost no one seems to mind. Well, not enough to turn off the latest televised singing competition or ball game or 3-D comic book movie. Or royal tour watch.

Attempting to be the Land of the Free, where Liberty and Justice are available to all, still makes us feel good about being Americans. How we conduct ourselves on the world stage? How we spend the greatest store of wealth ever accumulated in human history? Not so much.

So let us light a firecracker, drink a beer, and grill some animal flesh. Let us congratulate ourselves for more than two-and-a-third-centuries of independence from those mean old Brits. But let’s also remember what all the fuss was about back in 1776.

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