When Papa was alive we followed the custom of reading the Declaration of Independence aloud. It begins, "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."
These are words worthy of consideration on any Independence Day, especially one that falls in an election year. By our votes in the fall, we will ratify an old government or elect a new one; a more peaceable process than a War of Revolution. The duty becomes more serious and more somber when I think of it like that. To avoid the process of Revolution, the destabilization that would bring, we have a quieter process and through it we provide ourselves with stability. Now if we could figure out a way to provide ourselves with a stable economy.
After a long list of grievances against the king, the Declaration ends with these words, "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."
This group of aristocratic landowners pledged everything and I have always been stirred by these words, especially the concept "our Sacred Honor". I think our service men and women resonate those words in the service that they give our country and us. May all of them come home safely to their families and friends.
I grew up in the 1950's, a time that was patriotic to the hilt and right after I learned my Hail Mary's and Our Father's, I learned these words and the parallel words of the Constitution. Patriotism was a secondary religion, questioned only when our involvement in Vietnam caused such disillusion and skepticism that I, as so many of my generation, have been distrusting of government ever since. Now, I think, that it is a certain amount of the duty of citizens to have skepticism and to study the issues at hand. We should follow the shining example of the framers of our government in taking the process seriously. They did--all the way to pledging lives, fortunes and honor. Something to ponder as we go toward the election in November.
For more on the declaration here is a web site,
I am grateful for the heritage of this declaration, our democracy and freedom, as well as the election.