In the 1996 blockbuster Independence Day, Earth is invaded by aliens with intent to exterminate all mankind. The United States, devastated by the destruction of its major cities and death of most of its leaders, plans and coordinates a global counter-attack as a last ditch effort to destroy the alien invaders. The counter-attack occurs on July 4th, Independence Day.
In a stirring speech to the ragtag group of pilots – both military and civilian – that are to carry out the American component of the mission, the President – portrayed by Bill Pullman – inspires the troops with the following words:
“Perhaps it’s fate that today is July the Fourth, and you will once again fight for our freedom. Not from tyranny, persecution or oppression. But from annihilation. We’re fighting for our right to live, to exist. And should we win the day, the fourth of July will no longer be remembered as an American holiday but as the day that all of mankind declared we will not go quietly into the night. We will not vanish without a fight. We’re going to live on. We’re going to survive. Today, we declare our Independence Day.”
Of course, the American offensive is successful and demonstrates to the rest of the world how to defeat the aliens. In a spectacular “Hollywood ending,” fireworks streak through the sky as the debris from the exploded Mother Ship enters the atmosphere like thousands of shooting stars.
The film, whose title is eponymous with the American holiday commemorating the adoption of our Declaration of Independence from England, celebrates freedom – in this instance, freedom from annihilation by malevolent alien beings. And, freedom is a state of being to which all humankind aspires. This is just as true in 2012 as it was in 1776.
236 years after our American Revolution, much of the world finds itself in the midst of cultural and political revolutions. In the 23 years following the Tiananmen Square protests, China has witnessed a wave of personal entrepreneurship that continues to grow unabated and has become the driving force in its economy. Subsequent to the dissolution of the former Soviet Union, Russia and most of the former Soviet bloc states have embraced democratic principles that have defied recidivism to their authoritarian roots despite economic hardships and uncertainties.
And, most recently, the Arab Spring has dramatically changed the face of the Middle East. Since its inception in December 2010, this revolutionary wave has displaced longstanding leaders in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, and Egypt. Civil uprisings have erupted in Syria and Bahrain, along with major protests in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, and Morocco. Minor protests have occurred in Arab states including Lebanon, Mauritania, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Western Sahara, and Iran.
It appears that in every part of the world, people yearn for freedom and self-determination. But, in words attributed to Thomas Jefferson, “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” And so, as people in most of the rest of the world gain more freedom, Americans must remain on guard against infringements on the freedoms we have historically held dear.
As was proved by the Supreme Court decision of last week that upheld the Constitutionality of President Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act – otherwise known as Obamacare, our growing federal government can now mandate how citizens spend their money – penalizing those who do not comply. When considered along with continuing efforts by some in our federal government to limit the right of our citizens to bear arms and the confiscatory nature of our federal and state systems of taxation, Americans should remain cognizant of how rapidly concerns for security can slide down the slippery slope to tyranny.
So, as you enjoy a day off from work, perhaps a family barbecue, and a fireworks display, think about what freedom means to you and remain vigilant in its defense.