Sunday, July 8, 2018 | 2 a.m.
How is this for a declaration?
“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 earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and 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 ...”
Many Americans will recognize these words as coming from the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson wrote most of them as well as the rest of the Declaration, which set forth the reasons why the colonies were declaring their independence from Great Britain. The Revolutionary War and all the rest is history, as in the history of the United States of America.
There are, to be sure, too many Americans who do not know those words, never learned them and cannot grasp the gravity those words conferred upon events of the very early days of our republic. It would be helpful if they learned.
I have been thinking this week about those brave and thoughtful patriots almost 250 years ago who risked all they had and all they could ever be when they threw off the tyrannical yoke of the king of England. The people wanted to govern themselves, make their own rules for living together and risk their own futures. And they were willing to die for that privilege of self-government.
Here we are over two centuries later and, while the circumstances are very different, the words “dissolving the political bands” keep ringing loudly in my ears.
It is no secret that our country has been dividing itself between right and left in a way that is causing great frustration and anger between the two sides. It is not dissimilar to the early years leading up the the Civil War in 1860, during which part of the country believed it was morally empowered to practice the abomination of slavery and the other part of the country believed that to do so was morally reprehensible. In the end, brother fought and killed brother, and families did the same all in the name of an economic imperative that discounted entirely any moral suasion that, in hindsight, was absolutely clear and unambiguous.
I have been concerned for some time that our country was heading toward a place where people’s belief systems allow for no compromise with those with whom they did not agree.
The upcoming battle over a Supreme Court nominee, with the very likely potential that long-held declarations of individual rights and liberties under the Constitution hang in the balance, presents a clear-cut case that cries out for a Declaration of Independence in 2018.
Will those who can no longer abide the dictates of the Trump administration and who cannot find a way to compromise the American ideals they hold dear, actually state the reasons that impel them to a separation? Or is the wisdom found in the words of our Founding Fathers sufficient to show America a way forward and through what is an ever-increasingly dark time in this great experiment in democracy?
Remember, there is nothing in our history or the affairs of man that guarantees that the United States democracy will forever endure. The best our Founding Fathers could do was create a Constitution that could guide us through the worst of times on our way to a much more perfect union.
Declaring independence from Great Britain, while a great act of courage, was the easy part. Fighting and winning the War of Independence and, then, keeping this country free, safe and democratic for the next two centuries was much harder, indeed.
I am not being an alarmist during this week of celebrating our independence from Mother England. But I am, like those who cried for help in the years before Abraham Lincoln took office, sounding an alarm.
Ignoring the dictates and responsibilities demanded by our constitutional separation of powers, in the face of an authoritarian administration in the making, will drive families, neighbors and states to take up arms — literally or figuratively — against each other. Whether the ballot box can tamp down the growing rage within the body politic remains to be seen.
But rage it is, and it doesn’t appear to be cooling anytime soon.