July 04, 2006

To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world...

Today is one of my favorite holidays, in that it appeals to the single remaining idealistic bone in my body. Yet I always felt we were celebrating the wrong thing...

July 4th is considered the birth of our nation yet that isn't accurate. Today is no more the anniversary of our nation's creation than today would be the first day of my being thin merely because I say that today is the day I begin my diet (it's not). Our nation as we think of it wouldn't come to be for another 11 years, following the Revolution, the failure of the Articles of Confederation, and the adoption of the Constitution.

And it's not like the Declaration of 1776 was even a big surprise at the time. It had been over a year since the battles of Lexington and Concord and the colonies were already in armed and open rebellion against Great Britain. So what's the big whoop about today? What exactly do we honor with the roasting of meats and many loud explosions of gunpowder? What were those 56 white guys sitting in a stifling room in a brick courthouse in Philadelphia in the middle of the summer wearing outfits that any self-respecting bisexual vampire wouldn't be caught dead in expecting to accomplish?

What You Need to Know
The most important thing about the Declaration of Independence is the act of declaration itself. These gentlemen got together to declare something as self-evident which wasn't self-evident at all. No one before had ever committed to what they were committing to, and there was no reason to believe it was a good idea. It's the greatest example of the power of declaring your intentions, of throwing your hat over the fence so you have no choice but to go get it.

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.

Jefferson makes the claim that these are several self-evident truths which were very obviously not true at the time. He claims all men are created equal? Who told him that? You wouldn't know it from looking around Europe in 1776. And when in history had a right to pursue happiness ever been enshrined as a foundation of government? It hadn't, Jefferson made that part up. Unalienable rights? Made that part up too. The several salient points of Jefferson's declaration take a stand on ground that had never been claimed before, asserting as a priori beliefs which were just the opposite, and heretical to the old world order.

By ratifying the Declaration in July, 1776 those absurdly dressed optimists declared something as so which was decidedly not so, yet they were committing on paper to make it so. I love that about America, it's my favorite thing about our country. We were founded on nothing more than a stubborn determination to be good and to strive for nobility. We set a standard beyond our grasp, and lived into and up to it.

Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it... A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Our Declaration was bold and audacious, an unprecedented public statement that introduced the belief that people were rational and sane, and they shouldn't be subjected to leadership that was anything less. Monarchies had been based on the principle of the Divine Right of Kings ever since the Pope began anointing Holy Roman Emperors in the 9th century, yet here comes America with its big-boy pants on, claiming that not only should government derive from the consent of the governed but that royalty only gets to rule if they behave themselves.

It is one of the most important milestones in our ongoing development as a civilization due to how high it sets the bar for our self-management. In 1776 Europe was experiencing the Age of Enlightenment, an era when rational thought first begins to supplant the pleasant poetry of Genesis in the hearts and minds of the West. Jefferson applies the enlightened scholarship of the best thinkers of his day as he writes, and the result is a Declaration of Independence that celebrates citizenship, and the idea that a citizen-generated government trumps the superstitions and tyranny of the medieval monarchies.

Jefferson possesses an idealistic and hopeful vision of what's possible for humanity, and envisions a nation where government exists for reasons other than mere peasant and land management. The Declaration of Independence marks the emergence of the modern democracy as the founding principle for free society and it is the hook upon which the tricorn hat of government of the people, by the people, and for the people will hang.

There are only two ways a nation has ever come into existence, and prior to 1947 there had been only one: brute force. Had our colonies lost the War for Independence -- which was by far the likeliest outcome - the Declaration and its signatories would have ceased to exist and rather than the birth of a nation, today we'd be celebrating the righteous defeat of the Godless insurrectionists.

But such is the power of a bold declaration that it uplifts and emboldens the spirit, orients and focuses the mind, and lends strength to the flagging muscles of the weary and untrained. That our country grew from such a Declaration gives me hope and inspires me whenever I begin to despair of our current circumstances.

Happy Fourth of July!


At 12:01 AM, Blogger CalGal said...

Using the "next blog" function to see if anyone else was using "We hold these truths..."— I came across yours and kept reading through, down to "The Birth of the Internet" and followed a few links about the NSA and the secret rooms. Easy to see why they want to squelch everything— knowledge is power, and they gave the really smart people the world's most powerful tool. Now they want it back. Alexander Graham must be rolling over in his grave.

Really enjoyed reading your explanations— reminds me of how the internet used to be. When attention spans were more than a nanosecond and discussions were more than bratfests.

Your comment about "gathering information from practically everyone" struck a chord and I had to leave a comment. I just started a blog Just Say No.The American Community Survey The ACS is about the creepiest, most vile, required by law....By 2010, Census.gov hopes to have each household added to their MAF(Master Address File)



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