“When in the course of human events …”

Declaration of Independence  (July 4, 1776)

It was 245 years ago today, July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming the American colonies' separation from Great Britain and setting an unchartered course in which, for the first time, the radical concept that “governments … derived their just powers from the consent of the governed,” became a national aspiration.

The patriots who adopted the Declaration of Independence were imperfect individuals, as was some of its language, but without whose courage the thirteen colonies would never have coalesced to create a unified United States of America.

It is easy to understand why many African and Native Americans, women, generations of immigrants, members of the LGBTQ and other disenfranchised groups question celebrating an occasion which set in motion a society which discriminated against them.

Yet, as Frederick Douglass noted. “It was important then and is important now to discuss inequality and mend America.”

Countering those July 4th critics are the “America, Love it or Leave it” and “MAGA” crowds who yearn for a return to what they perceive as a more utopian time, much of which never existed, when social conflict was curbed and community norms were imposed by a primarily white and Christian-centric culture.

What both groups miss is America’s unique experiment in a civilian-sanctioned, representative democracy is an unfinished work-in-progress, constantly evolving as our nation becomes increasingly more diverse while continuing to strive to realize the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence. 

While unquestionably having provided greater individual freedoms and economic prosperity for more people than any other government in history, hopes to eliminate discrimination and guarantee equal opportunities and voting and other rights for all Americans still have a long way to go.

Churchill observed America’s, “democracy is the worst form of Government except all other forms …”  He recognized while cumbersome, often inefficient and slow to adopt fundamental and necessary changes it has been able to achieve so much for its people because, “Democracy is constantly reforming itself; the other systems are not.”

The #MeToo movement; demonstrations in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and other people of color; demonizing members of opposition political parties, election officials, the judiciary, the media, the FBI and other historically-trusted institutions; storming of the Capitol on January 6th; and the enactment of perceived voter suppression laws are warning signals many citizens have lost faith in our government, thereby threatening our democracy.

When our representatives should be committed to and laser-focused on finding common ground to strengthen and restore faith in our democracy and its institutions; polarized politics, fears of primary re-election challenges, misplaced emphasis on partisan party loyalty, trafficking in alternative facts and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories and dangerous cults of personality are preempting any motivation to engage in meaningful statesmanship.

The fifty-eight courageous signors of Declaration of Independence agreed to, “mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor,” knowing the penalty for their words and actions would be prison, torture or death if captured.

Sadly, very few of our elected representatives, faced with the potential of similar penalties, would have the unselfish courage to advocate such principled and revolutionary policies and actions to achieve the Declaration of Independence’s sacred ideals, “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.”