Saturday, July 04, 2020

A Glorious Fourth

     It should probably be the Second, but 18-Century editorial processes being what they were, it was the Fourth when the Declaration was in final form, so here we are.

     And it is glorious, the significant opening move of the most successful revolution in the history of the world.  You may not see as many fireworks this year; you may not be spending time at the show pressed check by jowl with strangers and friends (and, look, that's for the best), but there are still backyard and small-scale or socially-distanced "...Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more," as John Adams wrote, and even a little of his "...Pomp and Parade...," just from a safe physical distance.

      And the best part of it, a degree of freedom unparalleled in human history, a set of basic assumptions about the inherent individual rights of everyone that would later be partially codified in the Bill of Rights as a list of things that the government was to keep its sticky hands off?  We still have that, too.

     I have seen and read a lot of fussing over public health measures intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.  And they are annoying at times.  The shutdowns go well beyond mere inconvenience, but we've already had 'em, so big a lump that if there are more, it's not going to perturb the economy at anywhere near the same scale as has already irrevokably happened.  But masks, handwashing, social distance?  Those things are not infringements.  Not only by custom of long standing -- John Adams and his Revolutionary peers lived in a world of epidemics and pesthouses, of risky and sometimes compulsory variolation* followed by quarantine -- but by black letter law and judicial decisions.

     You are free.   Free to make your own decisions, for good or ill.  But you are not free to make decisions for other adults, and that includes the decision to be exposed to a dangerous pandemic.  Go look the fireworks, or set off a few yourself, and reflect on our history, which is far more than a collection of partisan talking points.
* No less a personage than George Washington ordered soldiers of the Continenal Army to undergo this early method of smallpox immunization.


RandyGC said...

Hope you have an enjoyable Independence Day.

Hitting the VFW later for grilled burgers, dogs and brats. We are fortunate that the post is on a good sized plot of land with a patio, picnic shelter on the property and room for several pop up shelters so we can spread out to keep the social distancing but still get together.

It's also a great spot to watch the local fireworks if they hadn't been canceled. Maybe next year.

dittybopper said...

To be completely fair, Washington only required variolation for his soldiers. It’s always been understood that when you sign up for the military, you are voluntarily giving up some of your rights.

Dadadididit didididadah.