By lex, on July 4th, 2008
Cookouts and parades, beer and bunting, seeing fireworks for the first time and then seeing them again every year thereafter. The memories always leading back to that first time, of being four or five, or seven and the beginning of understanding: This means something important. Something special. Someday you’d understand.
Dead White Men with classical educations and a great deal to lose risking it all – all of it – on a test of wills with a dyspeptic tyrant, a preening aristocracy and grasping parliament atop the world’s most powerful empire. Farmers and merchants in ragged lines opposing professional troops in rank upon rank, losing every battle but the last one. Holding them as we held all mankind, “Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.”
A republic built upon the radical notion that all of us were smarter than any of us. Or if we were not, that it was better to pretend as though we were. A republic that understood, as Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense, that society and government were not just different things but had different origins, the first an enshrinement of our wants, the latter a recognition of our wickedness. A new nation “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” a hopeful truth that would only begin to emerge from beneath the soil of our original sin when washed with the blood of 200,000 patriots on either side.
Whose valorous example led new generations to free islands, nations and continents, offering smashing blows to tyrannies and helping hands to legions of the bewildered oppressed, all because we held certain truths to be self-evident.
We hold them still.
Whose example inspires us still, when nearly all the world has grown jaded and weary, and only wants to look away from tyrannies, from potentates and thugs “unfit to be the rulers of free states.”
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.
Something special indeed.