Tag Archives: Declaration of Independence

Independence Day 2017

Declaration-colors

The United States of America is a country about an idea, and as long as that idea resonates in the hearts of men and women, the USA will endure. That first statement is little bit poetic and I think it’s more accurate to say, “We are a country about a couple of ideas: human rights and self-government.”

The first idea is that “all men [and women] are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This quote comes from our founding document, the Declaration of Independence. And maybe when it’s expressed in that archaic language from 1776, it sounds a little bit old and dated. It doesn’t sound new, or hip or cool.

But don’t we all believe that we should be free to be who we were born to be? Or who we choose to be? After a certain age, no one else should be telling us what to think, or what to do, or how to be, or whom to associate with. As long as we aren’t hurting anyone else, leave us alone. Maybe in this day of robo-phone call marketing and social media constantly dinging updates in our iPads, it’s more accurate to say something a little different. Maybe it’s more like this: everyone will try to tell us what they think, what they think we should think, but each of us has the right and responsibility to choose what we do think. Would-be leaders and elected officials and celebrities will constantly bombard us with messages about who they think we should be, but we each get to choose for ourselves. Or to make it up for ourselves, if we happen to be one of Nietzsche’s supermen.  Choosing for ourselves, self-government.  Being who we chose, human rights.

And this notion of a Creator, is that a little bit dated as well? Hasn’t evolution and cosmology explained the origin of humanity and the entire universe without the need for a creator? Well, let’s stop and think carefully about that for a moment. Even celebrated scientist of the 1970s and 1980s Carl Sagan – the Neil deGrasse Tyson of his time — said toward the end of his life, “Science should not rule out God, until God can be proven not to exist.” And Albert Einstein – the Stephen Hawking of his time – said, “God does not play dice with the Universe.” I can also tell you that Sir Isaac Newton [also the Stephen Hawking of his own time], the man who literally wrote the book on Physics and Calculus [it’s called Principia and I studied from a version of it translated into modern
English]…. Anyway, Sir Isaac Newton actually wrote several books on physics and mathematics, but he wrote more books and essays on faith and Christianity than he did on physics and math. Being a student of physics myself [I hold a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics from West Point], I keep up with these things.

As humans launch bigger and better telescopes higher above the atmosphere, to see farther out and older light than has ever been seen before, the patters that emerge show a beginning. Even in quantum mechanics, the math takes us right back to Planck Time – a fraction of an instant after the beginning of the universe. A few weeks ago, one of those orbiting telescopes finished observations, taken over many years, that prove light bends when it passes a strong source of gravity – proving Einstein and quantum mechanics. Now, does this notion that science does show a beginning, prove that the Southern Baptists are right and God is Jay-zus Kriiist of Nazr’uth (aka Jesus Christ)? Maybe. And the secularists out there are probably wondering who this Hay-zeus Tchryst is anyway [You thought Jesuschrist was just a swear word, didn’t you? Admit it.]. It doesn’t prove that anyone’s interpretation of the Divine is right, or wrong. But it strongly suggests that there is One – a Creator. The rest we have to take on faith and as the Oracle told Neo, “Make up your own damn mind.” Me, personally, I’m not just a man of science, I’m also a man faith, and I do have a faith relationship with the Creator and Yeshua the Messiah, whom God sent. That’s how I’ve made up my own d@mn mind. But you, do your own homework and make up your own mind.

The idea here is that human rights come from Nature and Nature’s God and can be neither created, nor destroyed. They can be debated, surrendered, fought over, and sometimes taken away, missed, or unacknowledged. But like Newton’s Laws of Motion, human rights exist independent of any government’s, or court’s ability to grant or abridge them. Like an electron or a photon of light, human rights need only an observer with a point of view to see them and like static electricity, or sunlight, they are self-evident.

Abraham Lincoln made an observation that each generation must appropriate the founding of America for itself. That is what makes us Americans. Unlike Englishmen (Englishwomen), the French, or the Germans, most of us in America can’t trace our lineage back to the days of tribes. Except the indigenous Native Americans – they can trace their tribes back to 10,000 years ago when they walked across the landbridge from Asia – where the Bering Straights are now, they sea between Alaska and Siberia. Most Americans don’t have those thousand plus years of ineffable French-ness, or Italian-ness handed down in custom and oral tradition to tell us what it means to be American.

I recently spent the better part of a year in part of the world where they have cities that are older than most countries in Europe. I spoke to men from the Pashtun tribes who can trace their lineage back to Biblical Adam, or at least to the Babel event, when languages were confused and families scattered all over the world. The Pashtuns, who lack enforceable borders and a country recognized in the UN, nevertheless, have an e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y well-developed sense of e-x-a-c-t-l-y what it means to be Pashtun. They know who they are and where they came from, and it has been passed down from grandfather to grandson and grandmother to granddaughter since before the beginning of history. Think about that for a moment. The Pashtuns have unbroken oral tradition that goes back father than the Siberian Landbridge. They know who they are. Unmistakably. But Americans tend to lack that ineffable American-ness. Until they appropriate the founding for themselves. Much like the Jewish Passover, when Jews say, “I came up from Egypt,” or “My Creator brought me up from Egypt,” Americans need to appropriate the founding for themselves.

Americans need to understand that we are a self-governing people with home-rule back to 1495. Yes, I’m from Florida. So, I date home-rule back the original town councils in St. Augustine, in Olde Espanish Florida. For the rest of the country, homerule goes back to the Pilgrims in 1620, or in the case of Texas back to 1836. But I digress. Americans need to understand that we have a tradition as old as some city halls in Germany and some cathedrals in France, of making up our own damn minds, of disagreeing without being disagreeable, of winning and governing from the center.  We have a tradition debating and losing and waiting until the next election cycle to “throw the bums out.” Or “!!Tida ellos por la calle!!” as they no doubt used to say in St Augustine.

We have a tradition of self-reliance and looking to our friends and families for support, before we look to outsiders. We have a tradition of being self-made men (and women) and work our way up in a chosen profession from the level of page, copy-boy or sweeper-of-floors to being the “Most Trusted Man in America” like Walter Cronkite or the Anchor of NBC Nightly News like Lester Holt. We have a tradition of kindness and generosity like private citizens donating a $1 Billion to relief efforts after the World Trade Center fell, or sending $100s of millions in private relief to islands in the Pacific that were devastated by a Tsunami during the Bush 43 Administration. And we have a tradition of recognizing when we are wrong and changing, like Robert E. Lee taking a knee next to a freed slave at the Meeting House during Reconstruction. No, our history isn’t without injustice or misdeed. But who else sent people to the Moon? Who else could lead the Allies to victory over tyranny in both the European and Pacific Theaters of War during World War II? In what other country would a man like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, take as his examples, both Jesus Christ and Gandhi, walking the path of love and nonviolence, to lead his people? The Rev. Dr. King led his people to vote and politely demand that local councils, state legislatures and the U. S. Congress recognize the human rights they were born with. Yes, Americans have done things we should be ashamed of. But we have also done things that worth of reverence and emulation. As Jason Lee’s character said in Vanilla Sky, “the sweet just ain’t as sweet, without the sour.”

So, the USA is a country about two ideas, really, human rights and self-government.  As long as men and women yearn to be free and make of their own lives, what they choose, these two ideas will endure and America will endure with them.


The opinions expressed above are my own, unless otherwise quoted or cited, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U. S. Defense Dept, Texas Military Dept, Dept of the Army, or Texas Army National Guard.  Each of these organizations has its own Public Affairs Officer, who should in no way be confused with me.

Choosing who we are and what we value (part 1)

Constitution Day falls in September, in the USA.  It makes the date when the U. S. Constitution went into effect after the ratification process in the thirteen original States.   Constitution Day also reminds of the promise made to many of the States which had hesitated to ratify the Constitution because it didn’t sufficiently guarantee the rights, privileges and immunities they had recently fought a war to secure.  The first Congress of the U.S. made good on that promise and delivered in the form of the Bill of Rights.  The Bill of Rights secures in the law of the land many rights specified and alluded to in the Declaration of Independence, among the life and liberty, private ownership of property, freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.  The Constitution does not mention the Divine, but the first amendment secures freedom of religion; that is to say, freedom to conduct our lives and daily affairs according to our understand of the Divine and what the Divine calls us to do and to avoid; or not.

It wasn’t that long ago that Americans recognized the role of the Divine in the affairs of men. The Declaration of Independence refers to unalienable rights granted by a Creator, appeals to the Supreme Judge of the world, to Divine Providence, and Nature’s God. The Continental Congress opened its regular sessions with prayer during the War for Independence. Presidents have ended speeches with “God bless America,” for as long as newsmen have had recording devices to capture their words. Our money still says “In God we trust” on it.

There was no debate over whether it was the Congregationalists’ God, the Puritans’ God, the Catholics’ God, the Deists’ God or the Jews’ God. All agreed that man was under the Divine and had a responsibility to understand and operate within Natural Law.

We have a couple more religions in our country today than we did at the time of the founding. And while the secularists, humanists and atheists claim to control the national agenda, over 80% of Americans believe in the Divine as some form of Deity, with most of those being Christians and Jews. Americans and their institutions used to acknowledge that even though many of us understood the Divine differently than others (all those different sects and denominations) we all agreed that the Divine was over us and we had to operate within Natural Law.

As I tipped in the title of this post, this is going to be a series, because I can’t get to everything I want to say in one post of readable length. Eight hundred words being the standard length for a “column,” from the old days of ink and paper and printed newspapers.  In this series, I’m going to highlight some major cultural decisions we’re facing today, in the U. S. and the world, and make a moral, ethical case for doing the Judeo-Christian right thing. Hopefully, this series will be interspersed with some pieces on the Jewish fall Holy Days and reviews of fall TV premiers.  But I may leave off writing about the television, because another series of mine, “So, what are we Celebrating,” is still missing any more than a passing reference to the Jewish fall Holy Days. I feel remiss in that omission. Soon, it will be time that I rectified that.

 

Independence Day

I’m just reposting Thomas Jefferson’s text of the Declaration of Independence.

—-

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

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.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
Georgia:
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3
Massachusetts:
John Hancock
Maryland:
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia:
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4
Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Delaware:
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5
New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Massachusetts:
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
Connecticut:
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

Image and text credits: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/charters_downloads.html