Monday, July 03, 2006
Let us truly honor the Declaration of Independence. This July 4th, this time around, let's ponder the lives that were sacrificed in this country of the United States of America, so we could live in freedom. Imagine what our 1776 freedom fighters would think if they were alive today - to see what our country has become. We need to see through their eyes. We need to understand that poverty cannot possibly exist in the world's most powerful economy unless the sin of greed controls that economy. We need to understand that sickness and despair cannot possibly exist in the world's greatest country without the sins of greed, hatred, and indulgence controlling public health. We need to understand that no terrorist organization, no matter how threatening or ignominious, can possibly erode the freedoms in a real democracy without sin controlling from the inside....
Declaration of Independence - It Wasn't Just Ink
© 1999 David Clark
P.O. Box 148/Cochran, Ga. 31014
It was the finest moment in many a town crier's career, as he stood on a barrel crying out to people just like you and me:
"When in the Course of human events,"
and you know the crier paused right then and looked out at the crowd;
"it becomes necessary
for one people
to dissolve the political bands
which have connected them with another"
and everyone knows that he's talking about us, about you, about me -- we are the One People he's talking about. And everyone stood a little straighter. Men looked at each other and nodded.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident"
and you can imagine that the crier paused again and looked out, letting the words sink in -- that we -- you and me, all of us here, right now, believe that the things on this paper are so true and so
obvious and so deep down inside of us that no one can deny it;
"that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are
and the pursuit of Happiness."
The crowd listened on in silence through a long list of complaints about the government across the sea. And the crowd listened to the declaration that the people of these newborn colonies would no longer stand for being dogged around.
Men put their arms around their wives and their children. Women held on to their husbands. Sisters held on to brothers. Mothers held on to their sons.
Everyone was proud at this moment.
And everyone was scared.
They knew blood would flow on account of the words the crier called out to them. They had pledged in late night meetings that the blood to flow could be their own, as they put their right hand into their neighbor's right hand and looked him in the eye. The blood to flow would come from this group. It would come from every family; from every community.
The crier continued on to the end, where he slowed way down:
"And for the support of this Declaration,
with a firm reliance
on the protection
of divine Providence,
we mutually pledge to each other
and our sacred Honor."
The crowd stood silently when it was over. No one cheered. Everyone was thinking that all over the countryside at that same moment there were men and women just like them who had heard the same words read out loud in stores, on porches, in churches, and on dusty street corners.
And everyone knew the British were listening, too.
To celebrate this event, I downloaded the text of the Declaration of Independence.
As I waited on it to come across the phone line it occurred to me that I could not remember having ever read it. I had seen the real thing in Washington; I had a replica of it when I was a kid. I'm not sure if I could read the handwriting on it, though, and no one ever got around to making us read it in school.
But we talked about what it meant, and how it came into being.
I was fascinated by the stories of poorly dressed men who gathered to face down the big boys in the fancy red coats.
I can remember thinking about how powerful it must have been as one neighbor after another looked each other in the eye and pledged to die side-by-side for the freedom they were all hoping for.
I remember wondering about being created equal.
I remember wondering about liberty.
I remember wondering about a thing called sacred honor.
One time Dad talked to a group of us Cub Scouts about freedom. Of all the things we must have talked about that year, this is the only topic I remember. We were old enough to start getting rambunctious;
but when Dad started talking about the word freedom and the meaning of it, I remember that we all paid attention. Daddy told us that we were free to do as we pleased as long as we didn't infringe on the rights of others.
I have spent the rest of my life since then chewing on the many flavors of freedom, trying over and over to understand what the word really meant; discovering in my own small experiences what is meant
by the rights of others, as I have been both the stepper-on and steppee of toes.
I have read about the men who put this country together. Imagine being on that committee. These boys were going to stand up to the boss in a big way. Their neighbors looked them in the eye, shook
their hand, and said "Go ahead, we're right beside you."
Imagine how it must have felt when the battles were over and the reality that the fight for freedom had been successful. Now it was up to those who had won the battle to be better men than the tyrants they defeated.
Over and over again in the history of our country, there have been voices of discontent utilizing the freedoms bought by the blood of these first American soldiers. The folks in power have probably
always thought about ways to silence the nuisance of disagreement.
I wonder if kids still wonder about what freedom is, and I wonder if anyone tells them how it started.
The folks who got up the idea of independence in the first place knew they were creating an ideal which would never be realized. They were trying to set in motion a world which was far better than the one they lived in, looking ahead to people like you and me to continue the work they began in 1776. They knew their words would be remembered and talked about long after they were gone.
Now, we live in a world where knowing our neighbor is an oddity. We talk tough about defending our homes against intruders, but I wonder if we could gather a group of men together who would be willing to die in order to defend their town from an idea.
In 1776, the villain was the King of England. As soon as independence from him was gained, the villain moved to America.
The biggest adversary to the freedoms gained in those days has been the actions of those who would be tyrants if they could and the inactions of those who would allow them to be.
The Declaration of Independence was written in ink, but what made the ink stick to the paper was the blood of men and women who gave their lives to the protection of the ideas expressed in that document.
The King of England was the enemy, and what he was trying to control were the different ideas of the raggedly dressed men and women who were carving a life out of the wilderness.
These same men and women put on better clothes and proceeded to violate the very ideas their brothers and sisters had died for, as they learned how to be the pusher instead of the pushed.
This weekend, while you're enjoying the day off and the food and the beer, take a minute to think about having the freedom to do it. Gather your kids around and tell them anything you know about the men and women who were willing to die for an idea. Shake the hand of an old man or woman, because they probably helped defend those ideas during their younger days. It's likely they know first-hand what it's like to hear bullets whizzing by while men scream in agony.
Take five minutes and read the Declaration of Independence. Think for a bit about what it must have been like to only dream of Freedom. Think about what it must have been like to join with others who were willing to die for it. Think about what is was like to shovel the dirt on top of the graves of kinfolk and neighbors who caught a lead ball in the guts and fell face down in the grass. Think of the love and the sorrow in the hearts of those left behind.
Do what you can to give life and meaning to the ideals expressed in that old paper, as you go about your business, being free.