On this day when we celebrate the 241st anniversary of the adoption of our Declaration of Independence, I am experiencing two sets of emotions that are producing a degree of tension in me that I find troubling.
What I believe is the main source of this tension was expressed very well in an interesting opinion article in this morning’s [Nashville] Tennessean. The author was Tom Purcell, a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist who is nationally syndicated, and the title was Bring Back Common Sense For July 4. I will close this post with a short paragraph composed of excerpts from that article — because its basic theme, in my opinion, “hits the nail on the head” as to what we need most in this country on this Independence Day.
The Declaration’s Place In Our History
[Don’t forget that you saw it here — what may be the most concise history ever written of the formal founding of our nation!] Our nation was actually still “in labor” when the Declaration Independence was adopted. Interestingly [and perhaps surprisingly to the millions of people in America who don’t know and probably don’t care], it was not “born” until the Constitution was officially ratified as our governing law just two weeks shy of twelve years after the Declaration of Independence was adopted. During that twelve years, ten Amendments were added to the original document — Amendments that were necessary to get the required number of states to ratify the Constitution as our governing law. Those ten Amendments came to be known as the Bill of Rights, and they constitute 37% of all Amendments to the Constitution since it [with those Amendments] was ratified on June 20, 1789. The “baby” was “born” at that point, but it took another 7-1/2 months for it to become a fully operational government [all three branches “up and running”] on February 2, 1790.
Why is this important, and what does it have to do with the conflicting emotions I’m experiencing 227 years later? …
I am thankful that through the providence of God I was born in the United States of America. I have been to 49 of our 50 states [for some reason, my paths have never been through Idaho], and to every continent on this planet except Antarctica and Australia, and despite all that’s wrong with our country at this point in its history, I am certain that there is no other country on earth where I would prefer to be a citizen.
My overall concern cannot be summarized in a sentence or short paragraph. It was why I set up this web site and began posting to its Blog section. A visit to the Home page [Home Page], and to pages within the menu selections there, is the best advice I can give to anyone wishing to explore or re-explore my overall concern. However, the one thing that concerns me most on this particular day of remembrance of our founding is the general “atmosphere” that prevails today — in the regular processes by which our government operates, in media coverage of those processes and of our elected and appointed leaders, and in how various ‘factions” of our citizenry express their opinions on issues and their views of other “factions” adhering to different opinions.
The tension these conflicting emotions have generated in me is not just nostalgia, not just wishing we were like we were “back in the day …”. I know as well as anybody that you can’t expect circumstances to remain constant over 241 years of gargantuan changes in practically every facet of life — my career spanned over 40 of those years, and the bulk of my work life was in an occupation that was one of the most, if not the most, influential drivers of those changes [information and communication technology]. The tension stems from the atmosphere itself. The level of distrust — within our leadership, between our citizens and our leadership, and among the many “factions” within our citizenry — is worse than at any time in my personal memory. And perhaps even worse, the amount of disrespect, hatred and vitriol that is evident in how people are expressing themselves is astonishing. So the tension is the realization that this cannot continue as “the new normal”. Something’s got to give.
On this particular occurrence of this particular holiday, we would be wise to realize that the whole reason the “birthing” process that formalized our founding took over a decade was that people had strong feelings on certain issues that were very important to them — and no doubt they expressed those feelings in some heated arguments. In the end, though, they came to consensus, and our nation was born. I expect that they came to consensus because they were a bit more civil in their dealings with one another, and that they spent more time trying to reach that consensus than they did trying to demonized each other. Call me an optimist, but I’d like to think that we still have the capacity to get back to that point.
In Closing …
I’d like to close this post with the following short paragraph composed of excerpts from the article I mentioned in my opening remarks. …
“In the course of human events it is necessary, now and again, to renew our commitment to the principles and practices that made our country great in the first place. Our country has always held to what the Declaration of Independence says about certain ‘Truths’: they are ‘self-evident, that all [people] 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’. Regrettably, we forget these simple truths sometimes. To renew our passion for the free and equal pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, we need a new declaration that promotes civility, open conversation and common sense. When someone disagrees with a political position we hold, it does not make that individual a monster or something subhuman. It does nobody any good to demonize or ridicule this person — not in a country founded on freedom of speech. To renew our gratitude for the incredible freedoms we enjoy — freedoms that do not exist in many other parts of the world — is it not better to engage your political opponents in civil conversation and debate rather than to prevent them from speaking at all? Groupthink and political correctness are killing debate in our country. … How did we arrive at a state of affairs in this country in which a person who criticizes [another’s position on an issue] is smeared as someone who hates [certain segments of our population]? … In a country as free and robust as ours, we certainly can work out our differences and find common ground. To do so, we must restore civility in our public debate, dial down the violent rhetoric and listen to others who think differently than we do. As other parts of the world work to emulate America’s devotion to free thought and speech — as others across the globe work to embrace the ‘unalienable Rights’ to ‘Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness’ — can we please get back to leading the way? [It’s the Fourth of July]. I can think of no better time to embrace a new declaration that promotes civility, open conversation and common sense.”
Happy Independence Day!
Charles M. Jones