Things You Can’t Do in the Land of the Free

Independence Day has always been one of my favorite holidays.  In fact, if Thanksgiving didn’t land squarely on the intersection of food, football, hunting, colorful leaves, hoodies, and cool weather, the 4th of July would be the undisputed champion of my holiday list.

Independence Day is one of only a couple holidays that hasn’t yet been completely adulterated by irrelevant mythical beings or stained by a liberal re-telling of history. Better yet, the copious commercialism surrounding this holiday is actually cool. Ask any red-blooded American to choose between easter eggs, plastic Santas, and roman candles, and see which one brings out the wallet first.

Sure, some folks are more sentimental about other holidays, and not everyone enjoys fireworks, but there’s something uniquely American about the fact that we delight in that short-lived flash and boom enough to gather all over the country, and sit outside and tolerate heat, humidity, mosquitoes, and that one crazy neighbor with the mullet and the battery-powered boombox playing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” for the 25th time in a row.  Sure, the show only lasts for a few minutes, but somehow it’s completely worth it.  In their own way, each explosion that paints the sky in a riot of color tells the story of a young nation ignited by hope, forged by conflict, let loose into the night, bursting with a brilliance that dares the darkness to forget it.

Okay, so maybe I’m being a little dramatic.  But this holiday really should cause us to reflect on the freedom entrusted to us, and our solemn responsibility to protect it – to strengthen that which remains. This Independence Day, as you reveled in the barbeques, sparklers, and parades, I hope you took a moment to realize that the costly liberty borne on the stripes of the flag and whispered in the hiss of each ascending mortar shot, is slipping away from us.  The loss of our freedom seldom makes headlines or causes much of a stir – in fact we usually don’t even notice it unless we plan to use that particular freedom in the immediate future.  While the passions of the nation are brought to the boiling point over marriage equality, a nuclear Iran, and the latest unemployment numbers, the sleeping giant that is the free citizenry of the United States has quietly been tied down like Gulliver: with a thousand tiny ropes that individually we would snap like threads, but together have rendered us helpless. The taxes, regulations, and downright abuses perpetrated by a government that now exists only to perpetuate itself, have touched each of us in a hundred ways that we quietly tolerate, believing them to be simply the inherent cost of living in community. Take the following as just a few examples of the many ways we have come to accept as normal, the progressive and expansive power of our government.  Here is but a partial list of some things you can’t do here in the Land of the Free.

1) Fly without undergoing warrantless searches/scans by the TSA.  My wife and I just flew cross-country on vacation and since neither of us had flown for several years, we had to make the uncomfortable choice between pat downs and porno-scanners.  Despite an abysmal record with regard to catching actual terrorists, the TSA is still routinely tolerated by the American Public.  I guess it’s easier to let these poorly-trained professional deadbeats strip-search grandma, than risk some psycho getting through airport security with a utility knife.

2) Choose whom you want to do business with.  From hiring to purchasing, non-discrimination laws have been taken to such extremes that business owners have little choice in their associations anymore. Which should come as no surprise, given that the sentiment of much of the nation is that business owners are really just the beneficiaries of a lopsided social contract.  After all, they didn’t build that.

3) Own land without paying rent to the government.  Currently, all 50 states collect property taxes in some form. Attempts to eliminate property taxes in ND and PA have met with stiff resistance from both the left and the right, whose major groups both dine on the revenue.  Honestly, property taxes are a fundamental denial of constitutionally-guaranteed property rights:  If your property is can be forcibly taken when you stop paying taxes, it’s not your property at all. It’s the government’s.

4) Build pretty much anything without a permit.  As a former homebuilder, this one is personal.  The permit and inspection requirements heaped on both landowners and contractors create a system that is restrictive and inefficient, and just as unsafe.  Inept inspectors are protected by powerful government unions, while honest builders are put out of business for OSHA infractions like leaning a ladder against a wall, or patching a frayed extension cord.

5) Sell raw milk.  Retail sales of raw milk are illegal in 40 states. I really don’t know that there is much more to say about the fact that we’ve decided it’s unsafe to drink something that people have been drinking since before the wheel was invented.

6) Protest outside of approved free-speech zones. In one of the most under-reported examples of disregard for the First Amendment, President Obama signed H.R.347 into law, making it illegal to protest near anyone under Secret Service protection – even if you don’t know that person is in the vicinity.

7) Open a streetside lemonade stand.  No one seems to be exempt, as even small children out to make a dollar have run afoul of the law. Small-time stands, exchange, and barter businesses are increasingly coming under the gun, as government strives to squeeze the juice out of every last entrepreneur.

8) Travel internationally without forfeiting your right to due process.  If you are out of the country and are accused of a terrorist conspiracy, don’t bother looking forward to your day in court.  Your execution drone may already be en route, with full legal justification provided by the Obama administration.  At least it only took a 13-hour filibuster to finally get the President to agree that he wouldn’t target citizens here, on American soil.

9) Keep your doctor, if you like your doctor.  Thanks to Obamacare, supply and demand no longer govern the health care industry, and doctors are in short supply.  Chances are, your choices are going to continue to become more and more limited, even if you’re fortunate enough to keep your health insurance.

10) Hunt or fish without a permit.  In a system taken straight from the pages of Robin Hood, Americans can no longer even hunt, fish, or forage for their own food without permission from the government.  In most places, this is true even when hunting on your own land.  At least one man did stand up to this bureaucratic lunacy lately.  Let’s hope his example starts something.  After all, if we still can’t hunt the King’s deer here in the US of A, what was the point of breaking away in the first place?

11) Get married without a license.  No longer a function of the church, marriage has been fully integrated into the tax code and regulatory scheme.  What was originally designed as a tool of racism is now a norm accepted by both the left and right, who are set to battle to the death over who gets to be the gatekeeper.  And unless I miss my guess, this battle is going to result in further losses of both religious and civil liberty.

I have always believed that the key to winning back our liberties is not changing government, but changing hearts.  Until we develop a mindset of independence again, we will continue to ask permission from government for things that are our God-given rights.  Until we learn to think like freemen again, we will continue to be treated like serfs.

Independence isn’t a political system, it’s an individual conviction.

And it is the heritage of every freeborn American, should we choose to embrace it.

Joel Kurtinitis is a columnist for the Des Moines Register, contributing editor for The Liberty Conservative, and operations director for the US Federalist Party.

Joel was a Regional Director for Ron Paul 2012 and served on the State Central Committee of the Republican Party of Iowa. He co-founded Liberty Iowa in the wake of the Paul campaign, and organized the Free DC Project during the government shutdown of 2013.

When not busy setting the virtual world aflame with controversy, Joel is actually an okay guy who enjoys reading, cooking, chess, bluegrass music, and an occasional foray into fiction writing. Joel and his family live in Des Moines, IA.

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