Me, The 4th of July, and The Streets Were Paved With Gold

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Guest Commentary
by Fred Schnaubelt

June Gallup Poll: Only 47% extremely proud to be Americans, only 23% of liberals.

For most of my life the 4th of July meant a day off summer school, a day off work, a day at the beach, or a family picnic.

This 4th of July I reflected on how proud I am to be an American, and how lucky to be raised by a married mother and father (today’s White Privilege). But what does being an American mean when T-shirts proclaim, “Your founders were slave holders”?

Why do over a million legally immigrate to the U.S. each year?  Ellis Island Museum: “I came to America because I heard the streets were paved with gold. When I got here, found three things: First, the streets weren’t paved with gold; second, they weren’t paved at all: and third, I was expected to pave them.” And still they come.

In Tunisia, Tarek el-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi was a street vendor who set himself on fire in response to the confiscation of his wares and humiliation inflicted on him by a government official in Tunisia. Imagine, committing suicide over a business license.

My wife, a Russian Émigré, was acquainted with a man imprisoned 7 years for having a secret manuscript of Dr. Zhivago. It was illegal to possess some books or even a Time Magazine.  It was published in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) the month he was released.  Imagine, no 1st Amendment and arrested for having a magazine or book.

In June 2013, a Vatican official said about 100,000 Christians are killed annually because of their faith. Imagine, no 1st Amendment freedom of religion.

In June 2016, the NY Times reported about 45.8 million people around the world were enslaved. Imagine, a slave today.

In 2017, a record 262 reporters were arrested, mostly for criticizing their governments, publishing “false news,” or Islamophobia. Imagine, no 1st Amendment freedom of speech or press.

In June 2018, women were allowed to drive by the Saudi government. Women in 155 countries are discriminated against, reports Amnesty International, prohibited from an education most are illiterate, and many subject to “honor killings.” Imagine, living in such a country.

How did governments come about: “The two theories of government?”

The first, in primitive times when men and women banded together to give up a nomadic life, settle in one spot there always seemed to be a persistent, band of marauders that periodically swooped down from the hills to pillage and plunder, confiscate crops and ride back into the hills. At some point the farmers said we’re farmers, not fighters and so they appointed a sheriff and eventually a Mayor, town council, congress, etc., etc. etc. Historically the reason governments were formed was to protect people and their property. If you saw on TV last week the Magnificent Seven you get the picture.

The second, in primitive times when men and women banded together to give up a nomadic life and settled in one spot there was always a persistent band of marauders that swooped in to pillage and plunder, confiscate crops and ride back into the hills.  However, at one point in time the ruler of the marauders said it’s cold in them thar hills so let’s just settle amongst our victims and loot them on a systematic and ongoing basis—The annual tribute we collect we will call taxation.

Throughout history most governments were criminal enterprises where wealth and power were controlled by the few and ever since Plato — typically through a form of Socialism. Socialism’s common thread being no private property, and rule by masters or bureaucrats deciding what’s to be produced and by whom, where you will work, live, and go to school, while claiming to be your voice and promising free education, free public granaries (food stamps), free housing, and free medical care as a “right.” Rights of course, are cheaper to give than real things, and nothing is free since someone has to produce the so-called “freebies.” Socialist rulers once in power, always in power.

Regarding “Your founders were slave holders.”  The founders established the goal, “all men are created equal” and Americans have been perfecting that goal for nearly 250 years. All African Americans owe their freedom and opportunities to Thomas Jefferson and the founders and the 350,000 mainly white but also black Union soldiers who died pursuing that goal.

Several years ago, it was estimated the combined income of all Blacks in the U.S. (including 3 Black billionaires) exceeded the combined incomes of all African countries where the average income is $5 per day. On the 4th of July, 1776 could anyone imagine Black billionaires ever (or 14,800,000 U.S. millionaires)?

A million people a year legally immigrate to the U.S. for its vaunted freedoms and opportunities and 50,000 a month are caught illegally crossing our borders risking rape, plunder and death for freedom from government and the opportunities therefrom.

I’m proud to be an American for the limited government and same freedoms so many others want to also enjoy.

Schnaubelt, a San Diego City Councilman from 1977 to 1981, is a commercial real estate broker and author of the 2013 book, Romancing the Voters, published five years ago today. 

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  1. “All African Americans owe their freedom and opportunities to Thomas Jefferson and the founders and the 350,000 mainly white but also black Union soldiers who died pursuing that goal.”

    Or. . .

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    Was freedom gifted upon people by Thomas Jefferson, and “mostly white” soldiers, or is it an innate birthright, unjustly suppressed for more than half of our shared history in the New World?

    We should celebrate our successes. But we should also acknowledge and expose our failures. Our mistreatment of minorities isn’t limited to slavery. We should all reflect on and learn from Jim Crow, the Tuskegee Experiment, The internment of Japanese Americans, The trail of Tears. Right here in California, the Alien Land Laws of 1913 and 1920 striped property rights from Japanese and Chinese immigrants.

    I’m ashamed of these dark chapters in American History. I am also proud that we overcame and corrected them. There is no conflict between the preceding two sentences.

    We are not weakened by learning from the mistakes of the past—we are strengthened. I am profoundly worried about an America that chooses willful blindness to our historic and current flaws, because that is an America that has stopped striving to do better than our parents.

  2. TO: Encinitas Dad,

    Can’t disagree.

    Nonetheless, without Thomas Jefferson the innate birthright might never have been realized, given there are still 45.8 million people enslaved today. Through thousands of years of history no one previously thought (or wrote) there are “innate” rights or “natural” rights (that precede governments) — until this country was established. Which is why America is an exceptional country. Until Napoleon, Arab countries did not even have a word for “freedom.” No other country of which I’m aware has an itemized Bill of Rights. But it is the culture, not the Constitution that ensures those rights. Historians tell us that slavery at one time or another existed in every culture on every continent or in every country. Blacks were not the first to be slaves since the word is derived from Slavs, and Moses beseeched Pharaoh to “let my people go.” Given the excellent points you raised is why I mentioned we are still trying to perfect “All men are created equal.” And as Walter Williams writes, Black in America have come further and faster than any other minority. Something we all can be proud of since our Constitution has made it possible.

  3. Be careful of deification of the founders. What they did was good, but not perfect.

    The Three Fifths Compromise was horrific. And the careful crafting of Article 3 did nothing to prevent the Supreme Court from ruling that black people could never be American citizens, and could not have standing to bring a lawsuit in court (Dred Scott).

    Our Constitution isn’t entirely novel either. If you have a long layover at Heathrow Airport, take a taxi, as I have, to Runnymede. There you will find a grassy meadow on the River Thames where the Matna Carta was signed in 1215. There is a small marble memorial with inscriptions about the birth of modern democracy and representative republics, and quotes from the founding fathers of the United States. The memorial was actually erected by the American Bar Association to acknowledge the critical foundations that we owe much to.

    A complete telling of history, warts and all, isn’t unpatriotic—it’s essential.

    Consider that today in modern Germany, every public school student is required to study and write reports on the ugly history of Nazis, Hitler, and the holocaust. Not so they will hate their country, but because they must understand history if they are to continue building toward something to be proud of. If you become friendly with a German, they will tell you that the required course of study is difficult and emotionally draining, and also critically important.

    I hope you will share an Independence Day commitment to make America great not with a hat slogan or blind reverence for magical founders, but by finding and confronting problems and mistakes wherever and whenever we find them, even when it makes us uncomfortable.

    Especially when it makes us uncomfortable.

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