I was casting around for something profound to post on Independence Day and ran into this at Orac's Respectful Insolence. His point about our freedoms, as illustrated by a lone crank protesting in front of the White House for 24 years, is a very important one. What makes us different from most other countries is the ability to disagree, publicly, with the government.
I'm afraid, though, that we're losing losing those freedoms. A single person with a small voice, like Concepción Piccotto, is easy for our government to ignore. Louder voices aren't so easy and get different treatment. They, whether sane or insane, are called unreasonable. Or disloyal. Or even worse, treasonous. As Orac says, it's the ones who want to suppress dissent that are truly un-American.
Take flag burning, for example. A stupid act, in my opinion. Not because of any veneration of the flag on my part, but because it is ultimately self-defeating. It's repulsive to enough Americans that, when they see it, they get so caught up in the action that they miss what the protester is trying to say. So caught up, in fact, that they're willing to carve a chunk out of the First Ammendment to make it illegal — willing to give up an important freedom to ban a stupid act. That's the ultimate in stupidity.
I would say that we need the flag burners and Concepción Piccotto. We're at great risk of having our choices and opinions limited to a narrow band of "center," which owes more to corporate freedoms than to human freedoms. We need the extremes (both left and right) to combat that narrowing. But we need both extremes to have the same opportunity and not suprress one and encourage the other.
So, what am I doing to celebrate Independence Day? The boys, their mom and step-dad are coming over for a BBQ — we'll have teriyaki chicken and pork ribs, corn and potato salad. But I'm doing something else. I'm joining the ACLU to put my money where my mouth is.
Orac closed with links to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The only thing that I can add to that is: Read them! Daily, if need be. Think about them and what they say before calling someone a traitor for saying something that you disagree with.
Update: Ed Brayton has another good post about the 4th.