Monday, July 2, 2012

Independence Day

"Let freedom ring.
Let the white bird sing.
Let the whole world know that today 
Is a day of remembering...
Roll the stone away
Let the guilty pay;
It's Independence Day!"
 (from "Independence Day, as sung by Martina McBride)

June of 1776 was hot in Philadelphia where representatives of thirteen English-speaking colonies on the North American Continent were "in Congress Assembled".  The curtains were drawn lest the content of their deliberations would be reported to the King's authorities and they be charged with treason.  The windows were also closed, adding to the general stuffiness and discomfort of the delegates.  In the absence of modern sanitation, the city swarmed with so many flies that a motion to open a window was staunchly opposed because it would admit too many.

The delegates were among the leading citizens of their colonies, among them John Adams and John Hancock of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Caesar Rodney of Delaware, Samuel Chase and Charles Carroll of Maryland, Richard Henry Lee and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, and Lyman Hall of Georgia. 

They were planters, they were trades persons, they were businessmen and merchants. And they were met to petition his Majesty, the King of England, for redress of certain grievances, the chief of which were taxes arbitrarily imposed on them by a far-away crown before whom they had no official representation.

Some wished to to restore harmony with the mother country.  Others favored dissolving all bonds with England.  

After much debate an more than a few false starts, a committee was formed to draft a declaration of "independency."  The result, mostly written by Thomas Jefferson begins with the words "When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands that have connected them with another" and continues to speak of self-evident truths:  "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable 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."

These were radical ideas.

The rights of citizens are inalienable rather than granted as favors by a capricious ruler?  Radical!

Citizens have a right to live freely and pursue their own interests rather than those of their liegelord? Radical!

Governments are formed to secure the rights of the citizenry rather than the privileges of the chosen few? Radical!

Governments are to derive their power from the consent of those governed rather than the divine right of kings?  Radical!

Citizens have the right and even have the duty to abolish an oppressive government and then to form a new government based on principals that seem good to the citizens themselves rather than what seems good to some distant monarch?  Unspeakably radical, treasonous, and revolutionary.

By assenting to these ideas, by declaring all things connecting the thirteen colonies to the mother country dissolved, and by claiming for themselves the rights of independent states, those who signed the declaration were committing treason against the English Crown.  Yet they approved, and signed.  Each one signing pledged for the support of the Declaration, with a firm reliance on divine providence, their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. 

Independence day isn't only about fireworks and picnics and dogs and burgers and beer.  It's about radical ideas.  It's about self evident truths and inalienable rights and duties. It's about pledging your life, your fortune, and your sacred honor.

How radical are you?

How do you claim your inalienable rights?

Are you willing to join the signers and pledge, for the support of this Declaration, your life, your fortune, and your sacred honor?