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By L. Neil Smith

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise


Independence Day is over for another year, and once again, I've failed to write the definitive essay about it, far enough in advance, to have it appear online upon the Very Day itself. I chose to write instead, this time, about the importance of getting rid of driver and automobile licenses, concealed carry permits, and Social Security numbers.

So I guess it wasn't a total loss.

The Fifth of July deserves attention, too, in its way. The smell of nitrates lingers in the cool morning air, and the sidewalks and streets are littered festively with the cardboard carcasses of dead whizbangs.

It appears to be fully as traditional, in 20th and 21st century America, for the round-heeled socialist mass media to be all agog on the Day After -- with bloody and grotesque tales of seven-year-old fireworks victims sporting ruptured eardrums, exploded eyeballs, and blown-off fingers, with teary operatics featuring housefires, forest fires, and river fires, and with a plethora of veritable Icelandic sagas filled to brimming with pyrotechnic crime and punishment -- as it is for the same low, crawling, parasitic scum to moisten their vile, mildewed crotches in perverted sexual ecstacy the Day Before, passing along the usual ration of government admonitions against the peasantry enjoying, in the time-honored chemical manner, what pitiful rags have been left to us of our individual freedom and national independence.

The problem -- for government and media alike -- is that what's being celebrated here is the stunning and spectacular success, a couple of centuries ago, of open, violent rebellion against ... oops, government!

Every year, the sorry suckups on radio and TV inform us that this year (as opposed to last year and possibly next year, once the facts have been officially made up and released) X number of miscreants were arrested for illegal possession and deployment of 14th century Asian technology. Sometimes the number of arrests is higher than last year, and we receive a collective tongue-lashing. Other times, the number they've been ordered to use is smaller, and they condescendingly praise us for humbly kneeling to gratefully accept the Clintonian insertion.

What I've noticed, however, is that the number of arrests for the largest settlement in my immediate locality -- the reeking, pustulent, collectivist abcess on the backside of the pristine Great American Desert known as the City and County of Denver -- is usually in the hundreds.

To get the real picture, you must multiply that totally amazing and happy number of free souls who have intransigently defied the Lords of Altruism for the sheer joy of making pretty colored sparks, smelling the good smoke patriots smelled at Lexington and Concord, and hearing things go bang! -- and passing that joy to their innocently delighted (or pantswettingly terrified) offspring -- you must multiply the number of arrests by somewhere between a thousand and infinity to account for the times the Blue Gang simply steal some little kid's sparklers and Roman candles without writing a citation, so they can sneak away and shoot their ill-gotten loot in some deserted alleyway, themselves.

Altogether it makes a perfect, heartwarming portrait of today's America worthy of Norman Rockwell. Or would that be George Lincoln Rockwell?

Whichever it may be, I've now reached that detestable stage where I can tell all of you whippersnappers, with a straight face, that I recall a very different America. For example, I remember an absolutely splendid custom called "shooting (or sounding) the anvil", generally an undertaking performed by one's reprobate uncle while the womenfolk stood around wringing their hands in their aprons, clucking their tongues, awaiting in secret glee an event that they wouldn't have missed for all of the apple pies left burning in their wood-fired ovens.

In my case, it wasn't an uncle (I had one of those, a pathetic wussie who believed that if he voted for Barry Goldwater, his bosses would find out somehow and he'd lose his cushy civil service job), but my Dad's best friend Chuck, a gunsmith from Alamosa, Colorado, who, on ordinary days, was the kind of Klingon who crushed beer cans on his forehead.

Back when they were made of steel.

Chuck would persuade somebody -- he had a bad back, himself (no, really) to haul a 50-pound anvil out of his garage for the occasion to a spot reserved for the sacred event halfway down his driveway. There, in a hollow worn in the asphalt by years of this hallowed observance, he'd deposit a handful of black powder and have the anvil placed over it.

Then my dad's friend Chuck would either lead a yard or two of cannon fuse away or (depending on his humor and the amount of Old Turkeywattle he'd consumed that evening) talk some gullible young candidate for natural selection into shoving a smoldering twig under the anvil, and BAHHHHMMM!, the anvil would leap into the air on a flaming cloud of aromatically sulphrous air-pollution to the delight of everybody, ringing like a great bell all the way up and all the way down.

Those were simpler days, long before cable television.

But the whole point to this remembrance is that we kids got plenty of chances to blow things up, ourselves, and if anybody ever got more than a scorched pinky or a ringing in his ears out of it, I never heard of it -- maybe because my ears were still ringing. Fireworks were just another kid's-toy, and they weren't only for the Fourth of July.

My younger brother and I, having grown up in the shadow of World War II, would spend half a day sculpting elaborate Nazi bunkers and pillboxes out of snowbanks around our house, and staffing them with what are now known as Green Army Men. We'd then plant Black Cats -- carefully unravelled from their long, noisy, wasteful strings -- as expertly as the guys using plastique to destroy the Guns of Navarone, and contentedly spend the rest of the day demolishing these enemy fortifications.

In the house, our mom -- usually overprotective bordering on the Norman-Bate's-Mother level -- must have heard our explosions. If so, she never said anything. We were just kids having a good time, and as long as we didn't blow up the propane tank or one of the cats, we were fine.

Today all three of us, plus Dad (apprehended later at his office, film at 11), would be treated to Thorazine, therapy, and the wet sheet treatment, while Paul Harvey -- Goodday! -- made exactly the same kind of noises about us on the radio, from coast to coast, that the womenfolk made waiting for my dad's best friend Chuck to shoot the anvil.

In an era when small, helpless schoolchildren are routinely bludgeoned by their principal and teachers, tear-gassed, wrestled to the ground, handcuffed and bellychained, and frogmarched off to the Bastille in a Black Maria for having drawn pictures of knives on paper, I know that all of this must seem insane to the bleeding-heart, bedwetting, afraid-of-every-known-phenomenon socialists who call themselves liberals and stumbled onto this website by some terrible accident. But while you're here, let me tell you more about those times.

My grandmother, living in a small city, left her doors unlocked in perfect safety all her life. I, myself, could walk a mile to school in the first grade without worrying my parents or enticing some genetic cull to kill me and eat me. Later on, at the age of 11, I could make the harrowing 13-mile trek into town after a blizzard had closed the roads, to operate the radio panel for the weekly church broadcast that was a requirement for my receiving the God and Country Award in Boy Scouts.

It gets better. In my youth, children roamed the countryside with rifles, and nobody thought anything of it -- adults would go out of the way to tell them where they'd seen rabbits or deer. Sometimes kids smoked cigarettes, and no one had the right to say a thing about it but their parents. Kids started fires in the woods and roasted hot dogs or marshmallows. In the city, it was potatoes. A generation earlier, kids got real live jobs and helped feed their families, before Marxoid intellectuals persuaded unions and politicians to "humanely" condemn "child labor", sentencing millions of innocent kids to 12 worthless, nonproductive years of daytime concentration-camps and socialist indoctrination.

What you didn't see, back when kids handled more of their own lives than most adults do today, was public schools being shot up by homicidal mutants, gangs murdering each other over drug-selling turf, or national epidemics of unwed motherhood. Kids learned Latin and Greek, knew how to spell, and passed tests that college students fail today.

Now you tell me: have six or seven decades of the calculated infantilization of American children led to anything resembling progress? Now that the process has started on adults, are we going to fight?

If your answer is yes, the symbolic place to begin is with the laws against the possession and use of fireworks. These laws must be repealed, nullified, or otherwise disposed of. For several reasons, fireworks should be given the protection of a fully-enforced Second Amendment. At their most innocent, fireworks laws are nothing more than another example of the so-called liberal's primitive hatred and fear of fire that I wrote about years ago in the much-crossposted "Prometheus Bound and Gagged" (included in my recent book of essays, Lever Action).

These laws must be repealed, nullified, or otherwise disposed of. At their least innocent, they represent a conscious attempt, mostly on the part of those who call themselves Democrats -- and who would be happier living under Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot -- to flush the American Revolution, and everthing it was fought to achieve, down the Memory Hole.

These laws must be repealed, nullified, or otherwise disposed of. But don't look for any help from Republicans. The only thing that conservatives can be trusted to do, once liberals have shoved their metaphorical umbrella up our collective posterior, is to open it for them.

To solve this and a thousand other American problems permanently, however, it would be best to rely upon Cato the Elder's policy toward Carthage: the public schools must be razed to the ground, so that not one stone is left standing on another, and salt sown on the ruins.

On nightly TV "news" reports, the Jennings, Brokaws, and Whatevers love to make snotty propaganda over the charming and ebullient way of celebrating Arabs have, of firing their AK47s and their pistols into the air, just as we once fired our muskets and Kentucky rifles. (They give their children guns, as well, exactly as we used to do.) Most of us no longer recognize that joyous urge, let alone commend it, as we ought to. (Please don't give me a load of crap about the safety of the practice, either; read Hatcher's Notebook, if you can still find a copy in this hive of political correctness, and then we'll talk.) That urge is the very wellspring of traditional American Independence Day festivities.

Whenever you hear, sometimes for several days before and after the Glorious Fourth, itself, and maybe half a city away, the wonderful snap, crackle, and pop! of illicit firecrackers, occasionally punctuated by the lovely wheeeee! of contraband pop bottle rockets, what you're hearing (although the distant rocketeers are probably unaware of it, themselves) is the real celebration of American independence.

What follows -- the inevitable sirens -- remind us who the enemy is, and who they have always been, since that other summer day in 1776.

L. Neil Smith is the award-winning author of more than 20 novels about individual liberty and the right to own and carry weapons. To read more than 80 articles like this one, buy his LEVER ACTION: ESSAYS ON LIBERTY BY L. NEIL SMITH, available for $21.95 plus shipping and handling from

To order Neil's latest novel, HOPE (with Aaron Zelman), receive free goodies and a special offer, click on:

To read about MAKING A MOVIE OF THE MITZVAH the action-adventure thriller by Aaron Zelman and L. Neil Smith -- and maybe even help us do it! -- click on


Printer Version

Mr. and Mrs. America, turn 'em all in... Dianne Feinstein, CBS-TV's "60 Minutes, February 5, 1995.

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