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June 29, 2011

Against overwhelming odds

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Next Monday is Independence Day. For someone like me, who grew up in a small agriculture-based country town in the heartland of the birth of our great nation, the holiday has always had a special meaning. I have often wondered why.


Perhaps it is because the Fourth of July is a part of our nation’s collective historic Zeitgeist, which commemorates the shared common experience of a great nation surviving against overwhelming odds.


As I have grown older and my study of history has intensified, the holiday has only grown in stature and meaning.


History is written by the winners and it is often sanitized and romanticized to an extent that the events portrayed by historical accounts, would be unrecognizable by the participants.


This great experiment we call democracy, freedom and America, should have failed any number of times in history and yet we prevail.


After the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress, which was only a revolutionary government in formation since September 5th, 1774, immediately set about the struggle to form a national government among states that did not get along, delegates that did not like each other, and regions of the colonies that had diametrically opposed interests.


On July 3, 2005, George Will wrote that when General George Washington “arrived outside Boston in July 1775 to assume command of the American rebellion, he was aghast.


“When he got a gander at his troops, mostly New Englanders, his reaction was akin to the Duke of Wellington's assessment of his troops, many of them the sweepings of Britain's slums, during the Peninsular War: ‘I don't know what effect these men will have upon the enemy, but, by God, they terrify me.’


“You think today's red state/blue state antagonism is unprecedented? Washington thought New Englanders ‘exceeding dirty and nasty.’”


And so began the American War of Independence.


The American colonists should have, by all measurable accounts, never ever won the Revolution. The war was not supported by a majority of the colonists.


European historical accounts reflect that the English essentially gave up fighting because the English public and government was financially exhausted and public sentiment had turned against the war. Between 1775 and 1783, England’s national debt had almost doubled while fighting the war.


After the Revolutionary War, the American colonies were essentially bankrupt and devastated. Immediately after the conflict, the only thing that kept the Continental Army from revolting in a military coup was the influence of George Washington.


If it were not for Holland loaning us millions and millions of dollars, we may have never made it. The United States was in debt to the tune of $42 million by 1783; $8 million was owed to Holland, France and Spain.


Hmmm… This is beginning to sound familiar!


Fighting broke out between states after the war, and between the states and the territories. States began to refuse to send delegates to the Continental Congress; and Congress could not get a quorum in which to ratify the peace with England.


In 1784, the French minister reported to his government that America had no government, no president, and no administration and appeared to have dissolved as a union.


It is indeed only by divine intervention that we made it.


Yet, the fact that we did make it against overwhelming odds only heightens our current responsibilities to continue to earn our right to carry on this great experiment.


On July 4, 1981, President Ronald Reagan wrote:


“Let the Fourth of July always be a reminder that here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that man is born with certain God-given rights; that government is only a convenience created and managed by the people, with no powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people.


“We sometimes forget that great truth, and we never should.”


Many say that 235 years later our country is in great danger. And that may be so.


However we do not have a “country” problem, we have a “government” problem.


As the 2012 presidential campaign begins to take on the cult of personality and behavior of a two-year-old, the traditional media would love for you to “not” know that we have a “government problem” or a “spending” problem.


Furthermore, the left would rather you believe our current “high unemployment and a stagnant economy are the direct result of GOP policies from 2001 to 2006 and its subsequent obstructionism when (Barack) Obama tried to fix the problems it cause,” as a commenter wrote recently in response to an article on the 2012 campaign.


Mr. Will’s essay in 2005 was, in part, a review of David McCullough’s then-recently released new book “1776,” (which is worthy of being re-read every Fourth of July.)


Mr. Will’s words six year ago, just before our current great recession began, are just as relevant today: “McCullough's two themes in ‘1776’ are that things could have turned out very differently, and that individuals of character can change the destinies of nations. There is a thirst for both themes in this country, which is in a less-than-festive frame of mind on this birthday.”


Today, we face a current national debt hovering over us like the sword of Damocles at 69 percent of GDP, with no solution in sight; an energy policy which emphasizes political expediency; and unemployment is at 9.1%.


Karl Rove recently noted, “The last president re-elected with unemployment over 7.2% was FDR in 1936. Ronald Reagan overcame 7.2% unemployment… as the economy grew very rapidly in 1983 and 1984.”


The lack of an economic recovery has been caused by, in no small measure, the constant threat of higher taxes, lack of credit availability to small businesses, and increasing overly burdensome government regulations.


There may be no better time to be looking for a solution to our “government” problem by a newfound “cult of leadership” for the future of our country instead of a “cult of personality.”


Happy Fourth of July.


. . . . .I’m just saying…


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