Citizens or Subjects?

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A few weeks ago, I was watching a documentary about the 1992 Lithuanian basketball team, who became symbols of Lithuania’s independence movement.  I’m not a huge basketball fan, but my family is originally from Lithuania and I had heard bits and pieces of the story, so I decided to check it out.

By the time the film ended, however, I had completely forgotten that it was about a basketball team.

I had just witnessed a revolution.

I was still a boy when the Berlin Wall fell.  I remembered the excitement at the breakup of the Soviet Bloc, but didn’t have a great understanding of what it meant.  I had only seen people rejoicing on the television in my lower middle-class American home.  What I saw in this film, however, was from the other side of that wall.  I saw it from the perspective of an oppressed people who suddenly knew freedom for the first time in their lives.  It didn’t come easy and it didn’t come cheap.

During one particularly gripping part of the film, thousands of Lithuanians flooded the streets to confront Soviet tanks and soldiers who had taken control of their communications tower, and had set up roadblocks to stop people from reaching it.  The clip showed soldiers beating people with their guns, and a sobbing young boy who had found his father run over by a tank.  It showed an angry crowd of Lithuanian patriots held off of their own land by an oppressive government.  And while they shouted at the foreign troops and pressed into the roadblocks, they wouldn’t cross the line.  They were subjects in an occupied country.

Just a couple of weeks later, I was checking the news online and saw that barricades had been erected around our national monuments in Washington DC, and that our veterans were being denied access to memorials built to honor their service.  Then came pictures of veterans being arrested and hauled away for “violating curfew” at a Vietnam memorial.  I saw a YouTube clip of activists at the Lincoln Memorial trying desperately to convince bystanders to join them in passing the barricades to see Lincoln. They passionately (and rightly) insisted that there was no law prohibiting entrance, and that people had a right to be there.  People clapped.  People cheered.  People walked up to the barricades.  People looked at the guards.

But they wouldn’t cross the line.

When I saw that video, my mind went right back to Lithuania and the revolution in the streets, and I began to wonder if we, a people “conceived in liberty,” had become a nation of subjects, rather than sovereign citizens.

The under-30 crowd in the United States is quickly losing sight of what freedom means.  We have been conditioned to ask permission, pull the permits, pay the inspectors, pay the taxes, and for the most part have come to believe that the only acceptable response is “Thank you Sir, may I have another?”

In fact, the thought of life without an overbearing central government now scares many folks.  Who will care for the poor?  Who will provide health care?  Who will regulate the economy?  Who will take care of us?  Ironically, we are now cultivating in America the same plebeian mindset that caused crowds of Soviets to mourn the death of the monster, Joseph Stalin.

Dependent people live in fear, but a free people must cultivate courage.  Unfortunately, most men prefer the “tranquility of servitude” to the “animated contest of freedom”, and thus we find ourselves in the position we’re in today.

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This realization is what drove me to put together the Free DC Project.  I have seen many marches on Washington come and go in my life; few of them ever accomplish anything.  People show up, make speeches, and go home.  But this is different.  Our national monuments – built by our fathers and maintained by our taxes – are being held hostage by a Chief Executive who would make King George proud.

We, the American people, have a moment to make a difference.  We have a chance to declare that we are citizens, with a right to travel on public land and visit national landmarks without fear.

So I’m asking men and women of courage to join me in Washington DC this Saturday, at noon, in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Bring signs, bring friends, bring conviction.  Stand with us, and make DC listen.

But win or lose, that’s only a start.

The earnest prayer of my heart is that somehow, Americans would regain a mindset of independence.  That we would embrace the truth that rights do not require permits.  This isn’t about supporting an organization or candidate.  This is about learning to live free.

Build a house the way you want to build it.

Educate your children in the way you see fit.

Exercise your 2nd Amendment rights.

Run your business your own way.  Hire who you want to hire, and fire who you want to fire.

Stop taking the handouts.

Demand answers from public officials.

The Free DC Project is just a spark.  We may not break the government gridlock.  We may be scoffed at by the media.  We may be opposed by the Administration. We may be ignored by the majority of Americans.  But thankfully, it does not take a majority to prevail… “but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.”

And every brushfire started as just a spark.

Joel Kurtinitis is the Co-Founder and Outreach Director of Liberty Iowa. He also serves on the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee.