Other Voices: Freedom a generational endeavor
This Fourth of July, flags displaying red, white and blue will color local landmarks and backyard barbecues across America. Family, friends, food and fireworks will mark celebrations of our freedom. Once again our nation will gather in collective recognition of our common heritage, with eyes turned toward the color-burst sky as we celebrate Independence Day.
As our nation turns another year older, I reflect on how far we have come since the days when the colonies overthrew British rule in favor of a sovereign government of, by, and for the people. Inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were held in highest esteem not merely as theoretical concepts, but as a way of life worth fighting for. Many patriots fought and died so that their descendants could live free. And having proven victorious, our Founding Fathers established a Constitution and Bill of Rights that laid the foundation not only for our own republic, but has also served as founding principles for nations around the globe.
Almost as soon as these founding principles were passed into law, they were challenged on both sides by fringe groups, traditionalists, and reactionaries; threatening the cohesion of the newly formed union. But the Founders’ true genius was displayed in the system of checks and balances they imposed on the three branches of government and in the bicameral houses of Congress. They designed a government flexible enough to adapt with the times and respond to the people, yet stable enough to resist drastic changes in response to the whims of the fringes or myopic passions of the day. It was designed to be a system of measured systemic change that would provide stability of law and economy. The brilliance of this system may still be witnessed today when factions try to push our government away from the country’s founding values.
Two hundred and thirty years since we declared our independence from an over-burdensome government from across the Atlantic, we find our own government heavily involved in many aspects of our daily lives. Thankfully, many of our founding freedoms are still intact; however, the ever-growing presence of bureaucratic regulation should give rise to the need to be vigilantly watchful.
As President Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States when men were free.”
Citizen and lawmaker alike should remember these words, not just on Independence
Day, but every day. This is never clearer to me than when I take my desk on the floor of the State Assembly to vote on the laws of tomorrow. The number of obtrusive bills
introduced in the Legislature seeking to encroach on our freedom is staggering.
For example, Assembly Bill (AB) 755 would outlaw parents from spanking their children. AB 722 would ban the use of incandescent light bulbs. AB1634 would prohibit Californians from owning a cat or dog over four months old that has not been spayed or neutered. The list goes on and on. Over a single four-day stretch in June this year, the Assembly voted on over 400 proposed new laws.
Sometimes changes to our laws are necessary to keep our state functioning. Good governance should provide careful oversight, while allowing individuals and families to live their lives as they see fit, free from government control. Good laws should maintain public safety without asking for a person’s freedom and autonomy in exchange. Good administration should ensure proper maintenance of our public facilities and wise stewardship of our common resources.
But too often, unchecked political power lends to the introduction of over-intrusive bills like those mentioned above. As your representative, I am proud to get up each morning and fight against bad bills that seek to erode our freedom. I thank you for standing beside me in the daily fight to preserve our heritage.
This Fourth of July, as we celebrate, take a moment to recount the courage of our founding fathers who took a stand against tyranny, often costing them everything. Let us remember our family members, friends and fellow Americans who gave their live for the sake of our freedom. And as always, may we all work together to ensure that our children will enjoy those same freedoms.
Happy Independence Day!
California Assemblyman Rick Keene represents the 3rd District, which includes Lassen, Plumas, Yuba, Nevada, Sierra and portions of Butte and Placer counties. He wrote this column earlier this year.
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