Disgruntledpatriot's Blog

July 5, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

Filed under: Sick and Tired — Trever Bierschbach @ 9:50 am
Tags: ,

by Trever Bierschbach

I know, I know, a day late.  Yesterday was a crazy day full of trips to the grocery store, working the grill, good ol’ American libations, and finally fireworks.  Yesterday was Independence Day, the day we celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.  Yeah I know you all know that, so let’s move on to the deeper meaning.

In the summer of 1776 (dates are debatable) 56 men signed a letter to King George, saying that they would do anything, lose everything, and suffer even death in order to be free from the Crown.  The Declaration of Independence wasn’t just a letter saying that we were going to be free, and why.  It was a death warrant, with the victims signing their own names.  John Hancock is quoted as saying “There, I guess King George will be able to read that,” in reference to the size of his signature.  King George had poor eyesight, and Hancock wanted to be sure that if he was going to sign his life away to his new country, the King would know it.

I read the Declaration again yesterday, a copy is run in our local newspaper every year, and I was amazed yet again by the prose.  The intentional use of words, and the insight into human nature found within.  One of my favorite lines, and pertinent even now is:

“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.”

This quote is important, especially to answer that age-old question “Why are you raising a fuss now?”  We get it all the time from political opponents.  “Why didn’t you say something when Bush was in office?”  “Isn’t it convenient that you speak up now that there is a black president in office?”  I always say, well first of all I wasn’t involved in politics when Bush was in office so I didn’t feel like I had any place to complain, and second, read above.  People will long suffer minor evils, before they get rid of something they are used to.  It took a long time for the founders to settle down to declare independence.  It has taken us a long time to realize what is happening and start to become vigilant again.

Another line that I find very telling is:

“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.”

This line has several parts that give us insight into the minds of the founders, and when inspected carefully you will find that it debunks many commonly held beliefs about the founders.  First is the commonly quoted, and sometimes reviled line “All men are created equal.”  It is said that some pushed for this line to say white men, or landowners, or educated men, but it doesn’t.  Many modern critics say that the use of men implies that they did not include women, or that the fact that slavery wasn’t abolished with the founders, that the line is hypocritical.  As for the argument that the use of the word ‘men’ was non-inclusive of women, I will simply point out that in that time, and even until very recently, the use of the male pronoun was very common and many times meant humanity.  Saying ‘all men’ just rolls off the tongue, and is more poetic than ‘all humans’.  The stories of female patriots, nurses, the fact that women could vote in some states at the time (yeah look that one up, crazy to know that women voted before 1920) debunk the notion that the founders were sexist.

The tougher issue is slavery.  The founders knew that trying to abolish slavery would have torn this newly founded country apart.  It was not possible to do it at the time and create a place where eventually everyone would live free.  I argue that the founders intentionally placed weapons for abolitionists to use in the future.  This very line in the Declaration has been used numerous times to support the abolishing of slavery.  Thomas Jefferson, one of the biggest ‘hypocrites’ to some, wrote laws making it impossible for new states to come into the union unless they outlawed slavery, though those laws were overturned by southern legislators.  I contend that the Declaration’s wording is intentional, and instrumental in future fights to abolish slavery in this country.

The next part that sticks in my mind is “endowed by their Creator.”  It has been used many times to say that the founders weren’t Christians, and therefore this country is not founded on Christian morals.  The founder’s own quotes and actions refute this.  I am no Christian and I am not threatened to think of the founders as Christians, or that this country was built on Christian morals.  The term ‘Creator’ I believe was intentional, and all-inclusive.  They didn’t say ‘God’, and that too was by design.  In their wisdom, and tolerance for other faiths, the founders wanted everyone who read the Declaration to find a connection in this line.  Whoever you believe your creator to be has given you these ‘unalienable rights’ from the moment of your creation.

Lastly, the final part ‘pursuit of Happiness’ was originally the right to ‘property’.  Many abolitionists feared this would forever cement slavery in America, with people defending their right to their property, which many in the south considered slaves.  The fact that it was changed to ‘pursuit of Happiness’ shows that they were laying the groundwork for future Americans to combat slavery in this country in a time where it would be more feasible.  Even waiting until Lincoln’s time nearly brought this country to an end, can you imagine how hard it would have been in the late 1700’s?

We need to remember the men who pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor so that we may live in this great country.  We need to remember them by being better Americans to each other.  Leave hate in the past, and work toward a future where we can have debate without the fear of reprisal.  This country has come a long way, but we have forgotten how it all started I believe.  We have gotten lazy and complacent, we no longer pay attention to those we have entrusted with our rights, and part of the problem is we are too busy arguing with each other.  Let’s pledge to each other that we won’t play that game anymore.  We won’t fight amongst ourselves while politicians run to the bank with our money.  We will work toward compromise, for the common good, not step on each other for the greater good.  We need to invoke their example, and strive for equal opportunity for all, equal justice for all, so that everyone has the same chance at success in this country.

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