thanks to wvnstv.com
This Sunday we celebrate our nation’s founding. Specifically, we mark the occasion of the July 4, 1776 adoption of the Declaration of Independence, which formally separated the American colonies from British rule and established the sovereignty of the United States.
Today, most Americans call it the “Fourth of July”. They have a long weekend off from work, drink beer at a family or friends barbeque, maybe catch a ball game, eat hot dogs and of course, watch a fireworks display.
As such, the day has become more “USA Day” than anything else. The requisite patriotism is there, but it’s empty. Wave a little flag, wave a little sparkler. Watch the kids run around. Relax at the beach. Get drunk.
There’s nothing wrong with all those things, and Americans should certainly take a day or two every year to relish in all the good that being an American citizen offers. Were blessed to the point where we can relax, play, eat, drink and giddily light off colorful explosives. It’s a benefit.
But all that comes from somewhere and something. It’s when the somewhere and something aren’t what the focus of the celebration is about, and you’re just left with the superficial byproducts…that’s a problem. Because eventually, if the “Fourth of July” just keeps going on as a day to use an excuse to party…then it’s just going to become a date on the calendar, a holiday with no real meaning.
The somewhere is of course that time 234 years ago, specifically at a meeting in Philadelphia, but spiritually up and down all of the colonies. The something is the fact that our forefathers had had enough. Had enough of being taxed with being represented. Had enough of being occupied. Had enough of being silenced. But most importantly, had enough of being dependent.
Man’s natural state consists of a desire – a yearning – to be independent. Even as young as at the age of 2, humans take demonstrable actions to make clear their intention not to have to rely on anyone but themselves. This proves to be impossible at first, but after fighting for it for years as teens, as we become adults the goal of independence becomes, to a significant degree, attainable. The process of becoming independent – and all that comes along with it – is the “pursuit” of happiness. It’s the root of human existence.
The Declaration of Independence isn’t just a great political document – more importantly, it’s a great humanitarian document. It outlines not just the rationale for why the colonists were justified in separating from King George, it highlights the spiritual underpinnings of why man has the natural right to live his life the way he wants to – a large part of that being the right to (necessarily) be governed the way he wants to.
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — 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.
Thomas Jefferson’s words bring chills to the spine – not just because of their poetic majesty, nor their patriotic nostalgia. It’s because they are among the truest words ever thought, written or spoken. The greatness, nay the promise of America, is captured right there for all the world to read. By virtue of the Declaration, the independence of man is mirrored in its most ambitious and fortuitous form – the Uniting of the States of America, whose grand vision, under the guiding principle of liberty, is of a people never more to be dependent on anyone but themselves. This idea, come to fruition, is known as the American Experiment.
Which, so far, has worked pretty well.
That’s what should be celebrated this Sunday.
You can read the full text of the Declaration of Independence here.