Independence finds freedoms changing

     One hundred years ago people were incorporating a new city in Trempealeau County and probing for a name.
     One person suggested Independence because it was the 100th anniversary of the United States. The name was adopted and this year Independence will note its 100th year on the 200th anniversary of this nation.
     The celebration for the community of 1,000 persons will be July 1 through July 5 with a parade July 4.

Are we losing freedoms?

     During this bicentennial year, the question: "Do we still have the same freedoms the founding fathers intended us to have?"
     Here are responses of persons now living in Independence:
      A 45 year-old farm wife:
      "No, we don't. We have to get permission to build houses, they (government) tell us how it has to be done, where it can be and can't be built and where we can't develop land without their permission. If we've worked hard to own the land, I think we ought to be able to do with it what we want."
      In reply to the greatest fear or concern she has in regard to individual freedoms:
      "I'm afraid we are being taxed down to the last notch. The system is unfair when it punishes persons for trying to earn more money."
      A woman senior citizen: "We have lots of freedoms."
      On concerns, she said, "I'm a senior citizen and all the money that goes for taxes makes me wonder if I can keep up with it."

"Maybe losing grip on some"

     Over a cup of coffee, a 45-year-old man said, "I think we are losing our grip on things, but some of them are as good as they were."
     On concerns: "We've lost our respect for others. Nothing is held valuable any more."
     One businessman sporting an anniversary beard said with the exception of all the regulatory laws, freedom is much the same. "It's the paper work that is cutting into our freedom as businessmen. Everybody wants reports."
     He added, "A concern is that we may lose the right to have guns. Even registration is not good, look what happened when the Nazis took over countries where they had to register guns, they confiscated he guns and there was no resistance."
     Two young men, ages 24 and 28 said labor laws are "too loose" and too much was being paid for welfare, coming out of their paychecks. Both were concerned that when they became retirement age there may not be anything left in the social security fund. "Other than that, I don't have any fears about losing any rights or freedoms," one of them said.

Cites government snooping

     One 50-year-old man said there has been no change in issues such as freedom of speech and freedom to worship, but in the area of privacy there is a loss of rights. He said, "take the IRS, they can just walk in without reason and ask the bank for your checking account records and your savings account. There is a lot of prying into affairs which is not justified.
     "In this regard we are not following the ideas our country was formed on.
     "In the last 30 to 35 years we've had far too much regulatory legislation and not enough legislation for the people.
     "It seems now that many persons feel the country owes them a living,"
     A 60-year- old farmer said he felt as Americans we have more personal freedoms. "We aren't tied down like our fathers and mothers were."
     He added, "I do fear the increase in taxes, they just keep going up."

Rights have now changed

     One woman said she felt freedoms are different. "Speaking from a woman's point, I'd say women have more freedom. They can vote and work at jobs closed to them before.
     "They can speak out, be recognized; my grandmother couldn't do that. Her place was in the kitchen.
     "I think may of the other freedoms are greater today, too. The freedom of religion has led to more understanding. People work more harmoniously from a religious standpoint, particularly in small communities.
     "I don't think we have lost any freedoms as individuals, but businesses have lost some, there's just a lot more filling out forms."
     A middle-aged man said, "I don't think we're as fee now as the founding fathers thought we'd be when they drew up the Constitution. Some changes were needed and I suppose they expected that, but I don't think they thought there would ever be as many uncontrolled laws and regulations as they are coming up with."
     He added, "All the politicians ask us to vote for them and they'll change laws for the people, but once they get to Washington or Madison, they forget all about it."
     One mother with two pre-school children said, "I don't think we have to worry about losing our rights. They are pretty well protected.
     "There are some things, I suppose, like the gun laws that are threatened. And there are more curbs on something, but I'm not worried about it."

Sees conflicts in solutions

     One schoolteacher said he thought rights and freedoms are sometimes in conflict at the present time. He pointed out people want more local control over projects, but they cannot agree on what they want, thus the federal or state government steps in.
     "On the other hand," he said, "top government is insensitive to needs of people in the community."
     He added that because of these things there is a loss of freedoms locally because people can't get together, particularly on issues involving the environment.
     An 18-year old male high school student felt there is less freedom where government is involved. He was critical, for example, of bans on providing "equal time" for certain political candidates. He also expressed concern about possible gun laws, saying people would not have any way of defending themselves while criminals would still have guns.
     A female high school senior, said in some ways there is ore freedom to do things, but she said she may have a different opinion on things when she starts job hunting.
     It didn't take long for one man to reply, "There is to doggone much government cutting into our freedoms. We have income tax, sales tax, property tax, state tax, federal tax, tax for this and tax for that.
     "The revolution was fought over taxation without representation, now we have representation, all right, but we have more taxes than ever."

Haven't got much choice

     "You don't have any choice, you've got to pay or lose everything you've got," he added.
     In contrast, one retired man said, "I can't think of any country or any community where I'd rather live. I've lived in Independence for 60 of my 68 years, and I like it here. You can say what you want about the country, but you just can't beat it.
     And that's the way things were in 1976 in Independence, Wis.

--Arnie Hoffman

Extracted from the Eau Claire Leader Telegram
Special Publication, Our Story 'The Chippewa Valley and Beyond', published 1976
Used with permission.

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