I woke up this morning wanting to do something special, something patriotic. Until I come up with something better, I’m blogging. Yes, that might itself be a sad commentary, but there you go.
Amidst all the fireworks, barbecues, and (at times mechanical) flag-waving, I like to put the significance of today into perspective. How do I do that? I read the Declaration of Independence.
We have seen these words a million times before, but I read them closely trying to avoid the clichÃ©d meanings that soundbite culture has ascribed to them. It helps to put the document into context; I think about the courage and vision of those who wrote these words. I think about the thousands who embraced the upstart revolution and forsook the old order to take up arms against old allies. I think about the millions who have sacrificed their lives and livelihood throughout the history of our nation, despite any feelings about the justifications and conditions of the wars and conflicts we have fought. I think about the American Revolution which continues to this very day as we struggle against our own weaknesses and challenges from abroad to keep the dream alive. This paragraph, perhaps more than any, encapsulates that dream:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.
It’s a powerful document and though it is not legally binding, it is the very spirit of our nation, this grand social experiment. It is also a beautiful piece of prose and a landmark exposition of the principles of classical liberalism. It’s as close to a Bible as I have, and I revere it.
Happy Independence Day, folks. (And enjoy the fireworks, barbecues, and flag-waving.)
P.S. Cat macro representations of feeds should not be this funny. My favorites: Yawn, Want to work at Princeton?, and RESTful Fedora?