Just in time for this year's celebration of Independence Day came a striking new poll:
The number of Americans proud of their country has dropped significantly in the last five years, according to the latest Fox News Poll.
Pride is down 19 percentage points: 69 percent of voters were proud of America in 2011. It’s 50 percent today.
And 46 percent say they aren’t proud, up from 28 percent.
According to another poll, it's even worse for the young:
Only 34 percent of millennials are extremely proud to be American.
Why this plummeting of patriotic pride? We could fell forests with possible explanations from all corners of the political spectrum: the Iraq war, Hillary Clinton's unparalleled corruption, Congressional gridlock, our failing schools and collapsing roads, and so on ad infinitum.
Make no mistake: if you personally suffered in a recent tragedy that can be blamed on failures of governance, it's understandable that you might not be so very proud of your country. For the millennials, that may very well have manifested itself in an inability to find a good job during the Obama Depression - which, despite any number of bogus claims of recovery from politicians and the media, is still very much with us.
But it's the little things that affect people's views of life, and this very Fourth, your humble correspondent was presented with a symbolic explanation.
What do we all do on the Fourth of July that makes liberals mad? That's right - we light off fireworks.
Now it's a fact that fireworks are inherently dangerous. Not a year goes by that some poor sod doesn't blow off a limb in an explosive misadventure. This isn't news to anyone old enough to strike a match - we voluntarily choose to take on the risk.
As you'd expect, the usual nanny-state suspects have attempted to outlaw or limit fireworks - banning bottle rockets and firecrackers, limiting the size of salutes, or even restricting the festivities to sparklers. Most of the time, thanks to our Federal system of government, this doesn't really work: anybody determined can take a quick jaunt across the state line and haul back a trunkful of entertaining contraband which, by the time the cops show up, will have disappeared in ashes.
At least, if you live in a rural area. Where things are more populated, as Thomas Jefferson foresaw, regulations are tighter.
There's some common sense to be applied, of course; there's no safe place to light off an M-80 in Manhattan without seriously injuring someone. In most places, though, a big empty parking lot can be found, especially on a holiday.
Of course, no conventional firework is going to light asphalt on fire, so the only risk is to yourself. No safer spot for a private Independence Day extravaganza could be imagined than a public school parking lot, paid for by your tax dollars, and guaranteed to be totally empty on the Fourth.
So that's where we went, with an array of fireworks which, while large, are perfectly legal in this state. Surrounded by a crowd of families and small children, we commenced the pyrotechnics.
Which is when the fuzz showed up. Were we arrested for illegal armaments? No: as the cop grudgingly admitted, what we had was graciously permitted by the Powers that Be.
Was the problem that we were creating a public hazard or blocking traffic? Not at all, obviously: there was nobody in the parking lot, which was the whole point of being there.
No: the reason he interfered, was because a neighbor had complained that we were trespassing. That's right: trespassing in the open parking lot of a public school we paid for. Which, apparently, is in fact a law. Whoda thunk?
Now, if we were on private property, there'd be an argument to be made for this. And clearly, the parking lot is there for the use of the school, so it would be appropriate to want everyone else out when the school was using it. Neither was the case here.
Was this particular policeman a petty tyrant? No: he didn't seem that much happier to be hounding us than we were. He was just obeying orders and doing his job by the book, which he's sworn to do.
We could argue that policemen and other public officials ought to be allowed to apply common sense, but that ship sailed a long time ago. We could suggest that our legislators write laws more intelligently, but it's impossible for mere human beings to dream up and write down every possible exception case.
What, then, is the solution? Sad to say, there really isn't one, other than the standard answer of "smaller government" - if all available cops were busy pursuing real criminals, none of them would be available for frivolity. But at this point, we all know by now that's simply never going to happen.
And so, like the lemonade stands of yore, another time-honored American tradition is driven from the public square, surviving only by skulking around in backyards under the power-lines. That is far less safe, being grassy instead of paved - but, being grassy instead of paved, the cops can't drive in and round you up, at least not before we'd aerosolized the last pollutant and hightailed it for the shrubbery.
Is this the way free men were meant to celebrate the Glorious Fourth? No wonder that, of the barely half of Americans who feel proud of their country today, just one third felt that the Founders would be.
One wonders just how disconnected from reality is that third of a half.
Over the past five years, the editors have been secretly working on a book that summarizes the fundamental viewpoints of Scragged.