John Adams believed Independence Day would become a great anniversary festival. He was right. July fourth is the central holiday of the summer. Post solstice, on this day folks celebrate with pomp parades, sports and games, the cracking of rifles, the blaze of bonfires and the pop, flash and fizzle of fireworks. It is a fun day, a great day — full of cheer and a collective expression of solidarity.
My family and I have developed our own unique tradition to ring in the declaration that officially split American colonies from the British empire: We escape.
We wake early, pack our gear (water, cold beer, fried chicken, cheese and fruits), brew some coffee and with a caffeine high we hop in the family wagon and make our way to a National Park. Theme song of the day? Well, for me, it is of course Born Country, by Alabama: “I was born country and that’s what I’ll always be, like the rivers and the woodlands wild and free.” We live in Knoxville, Tennessee so we frequent the Great Smoky Mountains. When liberty is the theme of the day, it makes sense to us that we should spend said day in wilderness.
In wilderness we live in wildness, that’s what I like to say. We live in liberty, absent of control and administration from the hierarchies that organize human civilization. It’s nice to forget about the woes of society, instead we respect the territory of the black bear. It is interesting every year, the bears’ authority always seems legitimate — I thank them for reminding me of freedom.
I love wild lands.
I admire wild lands because of their refuge. They remind us of what makes life worth living: Liberty. Among the mixed deciduous forest, under the canopy of poplar, oak, hemlock and spruce, a rich, harmonious chorus of leaves, wind, insects, small mammals, larger beasts, trickling springs, roaring rivers and childlike laughter fills the forest. There is excitement, danger, solitude, cheer and a common connection in wild lands. My heart beats proudly for humanity in open spaces. Here we are, traveling around the sun, building our lives with each other on an ancient Earth for just an instant in deep time. I can think of nothing more inspiring or beautiful than that.
So, for me, the old saying from American anarchist and conservationist Ed Abbey rings true: A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.
In protecting country from government, we protect ourselves from tyranny. The greatest gift wild lands provide is the ability to reflect upon our own societies so we may craft a civilization worthy of wilderness — worthy of freedom and the advancement of human liberty.
I’ve often thought, the National Parks, though under government control, offer a model of liberation. Open spaces anywhere else, be it mountaintop removal coal mining across Appalachia, Resolution Coppers’ impending assault on holy Apache land in Tonto National Forest, tar sands mining in the great Boreal forests, oil spills on the coasts, development on wetlands, growth machines on all hinterlands, and so on, are under the extreme archism of the corporate state — modified forever, taken from future generations and lost to the commons. National Parks were secured by a grand preservationist movement. These naturalists did not much care to talk about what governments ought to do, but rather what they ought not do. Environmental achievement was obtained by pronouncing the splendid beauty of natural ecosystems, the challenges facing nature, and the innate need to protect wild spaces.
We have a right to claim our governance, thus we have a right to preserve our common lands. National parks are a reflection of this — one step closer to reclaiming the commons.
On the fourth let’s celebrate country, but turn our backs to the state. Love of country and love of community have nothing to do with allegiance to government, but rather faith in an informed conscience in spite of government. Discover the wildness that awaits you — we’ll be right behind you, in liberty.