July 4th, 1776: “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union…” What in the world would it have felt like to stand as part of the crowd listening to the first reading of the Declaration of Independence? What in the world would it have felt like to ratify the Declaration and sign your name to it, perhaps with huge letters and a flourish like John Hancock? What in the world would it have felt like to risk your future, your family, your livelihood and your very life on one document?
Sadly enough for history lovers like me, we will never truly know, despite remarkably eloquent letters and documents by Founding Fathers and their families, what it truly felt like to do any of these things; one thing we can know, however, is that for all of this to be possible, the men and woman who staked their fortunes on 1,337 powerful, life-changing words had to believe in what those words stood for and they also had to have a vision for what those words meant when times were hard and things got bleak.
And thank goodness they did, too, because that is why we are here today.
July 4, 2016: “Yo, we the dudes, in order to, like, come together….” Have you ever wondered what a modern-day phrasing of the Declaration would sound like? It’s not something I like to ponder too deeply, but it’s an amusing exercise. Beyond the semantics of the words themselves, though, I wonder how this century and this generation would frame the message of the Declaration if it was up to us to make the same call that the Founding Fathers (and, by extension, their families and eventually the American population) had to make. Would we be willing to put our lives on the line, our necks almost within the nooses that King George threatened our Forefathers with because we believed not only in powerful words but in what those words could mean for our children and their futures? What’s more, would we be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to see those words become a reality?from something, it was an Independence for something, and that something is both our heritage and our responsibility, our treasure and our stewardship. While it often seems that, among millennials especially, it’s the new fashionable thing to criticize our country and downplay the values upon which it was founded, unless we can stand up the level of character, conviction, selflessness, and bravery of the ones who gave us our home, we should take a step back
It's truly wonderful to be able to celebrate a holiday like this, but today might also be a good time to ask ourselves a few questions as we ponder our history and where are now as opposed to where we started. After all, part of preserving our heritage is making responsible choices for our futures and, practically speaking, this could mean honestly wondering why, for instance, do we vote for the candidates that we do? Is it because of his or her (the ability to say her in this context certainly marks a notable difference between our century and that of the Founding Fathers) looks, charisma, charm, or promises, or do they have true convictions? Do we know how our decisions are impacting the course of our nation and do we care?
Just some food for thought…perhaps as a side dish to all of that wonderful BBQ we’ll be enjoying today.