Today, Independence Day is generally observed by shooting firecrackers, eating hotdogs and hamburgers, and drinking beer. These are all worthwhile activities -- in these Bloomberg-prudish times, they even serve to annoy the nannyists, which is always worthwhile.
But if you're looking for ways to make Independence Day a bit more about, well, independence, then allow me to offer a few suggestions. If you like, you can put them off until July 5 so as not to interfere with the fireworks, hotdogs and beer, though if you want to email a photo of yourself eating a hotdog to Mayor Bloomberg on July 4, be my guest.
While Independence Day is about independence from Great Britain, today it's also associated with more general notions of freedom -- individual independence, not just political independence.
Unfortunately, America's political class doesn't want you independent. It wants you as dependent as possible. As the Rainmakers sang back in the 1980s, "They'll turn us all into beggars 'cause they're easier to please."
So what can you do? Everybody focuses on the 2012 elections, and those are important. But why wait? Here are three things you can do now.
* Attack the funding. Many of the most anti-liberty activities of state and local governments are driven by federal funding -- either direct funding, or grants.
There are a lot of these out there, and pro-liberty activists should identify a few and then urge members of Congress to eliminate the funding.
In the soon-to-emerge financial climate, there will be pressure to cut programs all over the place. Politics being what they are, every single program will have its coterie of defenders.
But programs where there is a constituency in favor of cuts will be less common, and are likely to make more appealing targets.
It's probably best if the arguments are made in favor of money wasted rather than liberty threatened, because, alas, most seasoned politicians aren't especially sensitive to liberty issues. They haven't been very sensitive to money-saving, either, but I think that, at least, is about to change.
And don't be afraid to ask tough questions: If your state university is 60 percent female -- and many are -- why does it still have a Women's Center that was originally set up to ease the transition when it went coed decades ago?
Why are public schools offering DARE programs (shown not to work) but cutting gifted programs? You'd be surprised how much influence you can have by showing up at a city council meeting or a congressman's town hall session and asking questions -- especially if it's on community-access cable.
* Stop supporting the enemies of freedom and start supporting your friends. Cancel your subscriptions to cable TV channels, magazines or newspapers that support big government over individual liberty.
Give your money to people, companies and publications that support your ideals rather than undermine them. The so-called "mainstream media" isn't really "mainstream" at all in terms of its ideas and beliefs.
It's only mainstream because it's the biggest media sector. But it's been shrinking for years. Help speed its path to irrelevance. Likewise for other businesses: If they support government policies that reduce freedom, do business with someone else.
This may not change their mind: If media companies cared solely about the bottom line, the New York Times would have changed its tune years ago, instead of becoming steadily more PC. But it will reduce their importance.
* Join Together. It may seem contradictory to assert your independence by banding together. But our Founding Fathers didn't set America free by acting alone.
In fact, voluntary association, as de Toqueville observed, is part of the particular genius of the American republic. So get involved.
You might join a political party -- many small-government activists are trying to take over the Republican (and some even the Democratic) Party at the grassroots level and work from the bottom up, from the precinct to the state level.
It's surprisingly easy to get involved in politics locally, and you can acquire responsibility and influence quite rapidly if you're good with people and willing to put in the work.
Alternatively, you might join a Tea Party group. Those are still springing up all over, and are already having a dramatic influence on both national and local politics.
Every group is different, as the Tea Party is a movement, not a party, and has no main office. Find one that suits you, or start one if you can't.
If there's one issue you care about a lot, get involved there. Gun rights activism crosses party lines, but has had a major influence in expanding liberty -- over the past decade, the growth of Second Amendment rights has been one of the major Bill of Rights success stories. There are lots of other causes, ranging from fathers' rights to tax fairness. Pick one.
And if you're not a joiner at all, well, you can always start a blog. For some people, that works out pretty well!
Just remember: It's nice to celebrate Independence Day, but as we were reminded at the founding, keeping a republic going takes continuous effort. Start making a difference for liberty today.
And shoot off a few fireworks for me.
Examiner Sunday Reflection contributor Glenn Harlan Reynolds is founder and editor of Instapundit.com and a law professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.