This Land Is My Land, This Land Is Your Land


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July 1, 2023 by Scott Crosby

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This Land Is My Land, This Land Is Your Land

Editor’s Note:

As We celebrate our countries 247th birthday, we thought it would be interesting to present a unique overview of what the founding fathers provided for us in the Declaration of Independence. 

Happy 4th of July to all!

“This land is your land and this land is my land”

 Independence Day – the 4th of July – is America’s biggest, most important, and most revered holiday. 

Despite the efforts of some to disparage, belittle, and minimalize America’s heritage, the freedom we all enjoy – which those same people often disparage – is a result of what happened on July 4th, 1776.

 “From the California to the New York island”

On that day, 247 years ago, the people who would ultimately found the United States, journeyed as private individuals from thirteen British colonies to meet in Philadelphia.  Those colonies did not stretch from California to New York.  They barely covered the lands east of the Appalachian Mountains.  They barely totaled a few million people

 “From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters”

On that long-ago Fourth, those first Americans boldly Declared with a single voice to the world that they were rejecting the right of Britain’s King and Parliament to dictate how they were to live and act; that they were taking their first steps to Independence; that they were sending the British packing, and establishing their own government. 

 “This land was made for you and me”

Those first Americans made something new:  a land of freedom, of individual rights, and of self-government.

It took a while, but America even became one of the first countries in history to outlaw slavery. 

Americans knew that to be the land of freedom had to mean freedom for everyone.   Americans risked their nation’s future in a civil war in order to make the dream a reality.

 “As I went walking that ribbon of highway”

S595-1.jpgIn 1776, those first Americans set out on a new road – one never before traveled.

As hunter-gatherers, as exemplified by the American Indians, humanity had journeyed out of Africa 70,000 years ago, and spread throughout the world – to Asia, to Australia, to Europe, and to the Americas.

Then in the Mideast about 12,000 years ago, for the first time people who had been hunter-gatherers began to leave those nomadic ways behind.  They settled in one place, to make possible the first use of agriculture, and built the first permanent villages.  The rulers transitioned from tribal chieftains to become the first kings and emperors, a natural evolution of what had always existed:  political power held by the few over the many. 

Those first Americans, however, on the Fourth of July, 1776, finally said, “Enough is enough.  Tyranny ends here, and it ends now.”

 “I saw above me that endless skyway”

In the next century, America would grow, spreading and reaching from coast to coast. 

America ended the tyranny of Britain.  Expanding Westward, America ended the tens of thousands of years of never-ending battles among the hunter-gatherers who had inhabited the continent:  America ended the timeless Old World ways of the American Indians.

“From sea to shining sea” stood one country, founded on freedom. 

No Americans reverted to the Old World ways of Europe, of Asia, of Africa, or of the Western Hemisphere’s Indians.  No kingdoms and no empires dotted the American landscape. 

Perhaps to the surprise of the rest of the world, given their own existence, no battles had to be fought against renegade Americans intent on setting up a kingdom. 

 “Saw below me that golden valley”

America’s freedom stood above and beyond anything the rest of the world knew, immersed as it was in the tyranny, oppression, and destruction of kings and emperors.

Given the Americans’ phrase, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”, the consequence of all that freedom perhaps should have been obvious:  America became an economic powerhouse – a nation-wide level of prosperity for everyone, due to all that freedom, that was beyond what anyone expected or even dreamed possible.

When people have the freedom to act, to Pursue their own Happiness, prosperity is the result.  Most people – even Americans – miss that connection even down to the present day.

America’s strength and leadership in making this a more peaceful and less destructive world is possible only because of the freedom and prosperity its citizens enjoy.

 “This land was made for you and me”

Those first Americans, who Declared their Independence in 1776, did not fall into the evolutionary trap of setting up a government that was based on what had come before.  General George Washington did not become King.

Rather, America’s first leaders studied what examples history had to offer of types and facets of governments that had achieved some level of success in protecting the lives and well-being of their citizens:  Athens in the 400s BC, Rome in 500-100 BC, Switzerland since 1291, and others.

 “I roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps”

From this knowledge combined with their experience as the governments of the American colonies since their founding, and the development of their own political philosophy since about 1760, those first Americans designed something new – something the likes of which the world had never before imagined – or had been able to imagine:  a government to protect, not oppress.

 “To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts”

Wherever Americans have gone, they have taken along with them the American government of We the People

The American Constitution is the oldest active Constitution in the world.  It was so well designed that, despite its mistakes, it has stood the test of time, of life in locations foreign to the Founders, of national growth, and of changes in America and in the world environment.

 “All around me a voice was sounding”

Americans, like any people, are not angels; they are prone to mistakes, to subterfuge, and to good and evil. 

 “This land was made for you and me”

And yet, the American way of life – based on freedom – has persevered.  It endures and continues, for all of us, and because of all of us and of our determination to live in freedom; to live as Americans from day to day.

 “When the sun comes shining then I was strolling”

In the nation’s darkest days, Americans – and thus America – have persisted until America’s brilliant light shone again.

 “And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling”

America’s bounty is its peoples’ freedom, and its peoples’ dedication to maintaining that freedom – to prefer freedom to oppression.

 “A voice come chanting as the fog was lifting”

That bounty is still available to those who reach America’s shores from those less-free places still remaining in the rest of the world.

Reaching America, becoming an American, and finding their place in America, they learn what is true:

 “This land was made for you and me”

From those first American colonists in Jamestown in 1607 and Plymouth Rock in 1621, Americans made their New World the land it is now:  a place once unimaginable, where it is possible for each of us to be free, and to build the life he is capable of building.

 “This land is your land and this land is my land”

Everyone in America, regardless of their heritage, is an immigrant, or the descendant of an immigrant – that is true even of American Indians. 

Freedom, as described in the Declaration of Independence, is what makes possible a land that is your land, and a land that is my land – for everyone.

The limitations of tribal hunter-gatherers, of conquest, and of kings and emperors is gone – replaced by America and Americans.

 “From California to the New York island”

From coast to coast, as well as in Alaska, Hawaii, and the U.S. territories, America’s freedom for everyone is unchallenged.

 “From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters”

From coast to coast, due to that freedom, Americans possess a way of life available nowhere else.

 “This land was made for you and me”

Independence Day – July 4th – is the day that America broke with the past:  it was the day when Americans said, “The tyranny which has existed throughout this world is not welcome here.  Here we make our stand.  Here freedom and liberty and the rule of law first becomes the norm – the standard before which all kings, emperors, chieftains, and other tyrants will quail.  Here is the standard which will be taken seen by all of the world’s oppressed populations, and which will set an example, proving to all those millions world-wide, to the dismay of their oppressors, to help them work to threaten and destroy tyranny everywhere it yet survives.”

Independence Day is a landmark, a brilliant lighthouse, a beacon, showing to all the world what can be, what should be, and what is.

 --  “This Land Is Your Land”, by Woody Guthrie; first recorded in 1944

 

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