By now, you all know how completely enamored I become with every new country I visit. But let’s be clear: I love America, first and foremost, and it will always be my home. Being away from home and among starkly different cultures and societies has given me a great deal of time to compare, contrast and reflect on the idea of America.
On this 4th of July, I’m reflecting on the U.S. Declaration of Independence. I think that we Americans get so caught up in the festivities of the holiday, with the fireworks and barbecues, that we forget or overlook the important history and meaning behind the holiday.
Read through the words of the Declaration of Independence by clicking here.
I love the bold, assertive prose that the Founding Fathers used to tell the world the grievances that they had against King George III. They invoked natural rights that are at the core of the freedom that America so boldly stands for today. These include the ideas:
- that all men are created equal
- that they are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
- that the people have the right to alter or abolish any government that limits these rights.
What powerful words! The universality and timelessness of freedom is evident today with what we’ve seen during the recent Arab Spring, the changes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and throughout the middle east. Everyone wants to be treated decently and to have the opportunity to improve their lot in life.
18th century Western civilization was a lot different than it is today. Monarchies got their legitimate power from God. You could be accused of a crime and locked away to rot in a prison for the rest of your life without being given due process. Also, punishment for speaking against the government could have resulted in you getting tortured or hung.
And that’s what the 56 guys who put their names on the U.S. Declaration of Independence were risking. The last line shows their courage: “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” Had the American Revolutionary war been lost on our side, all those 56 Americans, like Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Sam and John Adams, would’ve been hunted down and certainly put to death by the Brits. They knew what was at stake and they put everything on the line to give birth to a new nation that was destined to become a great one.
There are still many parts of the world where the idea of equality, the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the right to change a crummy government is not in favor with the status quo.* I cannot overstate how lucky I feel to be born and raised in America. It’s something I am thankful for every single day and it wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for those 56 brave Americans who wrote and signed the Declaration of Independence.
Happy birthday, America!
*One may argue still that certain members of our society are denied the freedoms that I purport America to stand for and I’d be happy to discuss my views on these social issues in a separate forum. Please contact me personally so that we may discuss.