The U.K.’s vote to exit the EU comes at a propitious time. As we celebrate the 240th anniversary of our independence, Brexit reminds us of the meaning of liberty.
Some readers, and some of my colleagues, tell me: Don’t comment on national and international issues. We’re local, they say. They also say, “You make our advertisers mad.”
But every year, when Independence Day approaches, the patriotic urge is too great. Stories about our nation’s founding are important. Sometimes we reprint the Declaration of Independence. Everyone should read it … every year. We also publish our annual special section, “Spirit of America.”
All of this is with the intention of reminding ourselves of who we are, how we came to be and of our nation’s founding principles. And all of this needs to be repeated — again and again. It’s essential to the preservation and flourishing of our heritage, culture and liberty.
This year, the Independence Day story is in real time. And just as it did in 1776, this year’s story involves Great Britain and the United States. They are central characters in an overarching drama, except that this year, they are separate players with separate, albeit similar, circumstances.
You might say the events of each nation may turn out to be what popular author Malcolm Gladwell would call the “tipping point” — that moment when an idea, trend or social behavior crosses a threshold and dramatically changes the trajectory of events. Or, as historian-author Jon Meacham said in a speech last weekend at the Leadership Florida annual meeting at Walt Disney Resort:
When Thomas Jefferson sat in his revolving Windsor chair in 1776 in the upstairs parlor in Philadelphia to write the Declaration of Independence, “he was creating the embodiment of huge cultural trends.”
Jefferson penned in that room not only the summary of preceding decades of events and relations with the Motherland and its King, but he crystallized what became the fundamental premise of American life, then and thereafter: We have the right to create our own destiny.
And that is Brexit. And, to a degree, that is Trump, or perhaps more precisely, the Trump movement.
Brits and Americans are reaffirming they want back the right to create — and control — their own destiny.
Indeed, how wonderful it would be if, on the 240th anniversary of the Colonists proclaiming their independence and every man’s inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, every American would step back and soak in the profound statement British voters sent June 23 to exit the European Union.
Fraser Nelson, editor of Spectator, clearly illustrated in the Wall Street Journal the impetus behind the Brexit vote through the words of Michael Gove, Britain’s justice secretary. Gove said he constantly dealt with edicts and regulations framed by the bureaucrats in the European Union in Brussels. Gove said these were rules and regulations “that he doesn’t want and can’t change. These were rules that no one in Britain asked for, rules promulgated by officials whose names Brits don’t know, people whom they never elected and cannot remove from office. Yet they become the law of the land.”
Oh, what a familiar tune.
Here in the United States, of course, under the auspices of a despot-like president and the entrenched, self-serving Congress, the unelected, unaccountable rule makers go by acronyms of EPA, IRS, SEC, OSHA and the Departments of Labor, Justice, Health and Human Services, Education and on and on. They are our Brussels, making rules and laws that constrict your freedoms, as if you’re being body-wrapped in a rope. And increasingly, America’s producers and silent middle class — those whose wealth is confiscated to fund our own Brussels — are feeling helpless and angry, unable to stop these runaway government takers from burrowing ever deeper into our lives.
These conditions in the U.K. and here at home have parallels with what Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence wrote of the British king’s “history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”
Mind you, neither Brussels nor our own federal government has risen to the ultimate obscene levels of King George during the 1700s. As of now, neither EU President Jean-Claude Juncker nor President Obama has gone so far as to send “swarms of Officers to … eat out their substance,” as Jefferson described. Nor have they sent into Britain or the U.S. “large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages …”
But if you read down the list of Jefferson’s 27 egregious charges against the king, many of them resemble actions that have been executed against citizens in the U.K. and U.S. over the past decade and longer. Remember the North Carolina convenience store operator from whom the IRS snatched — unannounced — $107,000 from his bank account because his niece made cash deposits that exceeded federal limits? You could fill a book of “usurpations.”
Millions of Americans and Brits are today’s Howard Beales — mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.
On top of the usurpations, in both countries, out-of-control and lawless immigration is provoking equal anger and frustration.
The EU’s immigration laws became such an illogical, open-border system that it wiped out any hope of immigrants assimilating and accepting the culture, mores and values of their new homes. It was as if a foreign guest moved into your home and brazenly rejected your family’s habits, customs and traditions. Brexiteers said: Enough. We are Brits; we want to remain Brits; we want control of our borders and our country.
Americans have similar sentiments. As a nation of immigrants, we welcome them. But the message of the “Trumpians” is: Immigrants can pursue life, liberty and happiness as long as they do it by the law. Get in the legal line.
So when the British sent the second shot heard round the world June 23 to leave the EU, they affirmed and shouted a familiar call. The same call that millions of Americans have been shouting ever since the Tea Party movement spread like a western brush fire in 2009 and beyond.
In both nations, voters are shouting laissez faire — “leave us alone.” They are rejecting the political class smothering their lives with despotic rules, and they want restored their self-determining sovereignty, their liberty and the preservation of their nationhood, heritage and cultures.
In the high-rise offices of the global elites, they see Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump as hedgehog-like movements of isolationist nativism. But talk to regular people, and they will tell you Brexit and Trump are the embodiment, continuation and reassertion of what Jefferson proclaimed: That we — not the EU, not Obama, not the IRS — have the right to create our own destiny. We are endowed with the rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.