Last night, just before I went to bed, my daughter asked me if I could write her an article on Independence Day. When I asked her why, she said, “Because I have to read an article on Independence Day”. I’m not surewhoshe has to read it for, it being summer and all, but I thought I’d give it a try.
On July 4, 1776 a bunch of men put their lives in danger by signing a piece of paper that said what they believed. Never be afraid to do the same thing, if you believe strongly enough in something.
Most people don’t realize that the men who signed this paper were in a small, but I think, growing minority. As I understand it, 1/3 of the people wanted to be independent, 1/3 wanted to keep things the way they were, and 1/3 couldn’t care one way or the other. It’s always this way. There are plenty of people who will go along with anything and do nothing to help it get there. There will always be people on the other side of your opinion. That’s ok. Believe what you believe and, if it’s important enough to you, say it and do something about it, whatever “it” is.
On that point, while I’m at it, the Founding Fathers — heck, even your own father — don’t have a clue what the future holds or what will be important to you,. In 1776, people thought that only men counted, that people could own other people, that Black people weren’t really people at all, that everybody was a Protestant Christian, and that you, as a girl, could only do certain things in life like stay home and be a mommy. Also, as a girl, you had to only fall in love with boys. Your dad has seen so many of those things change in just his lifetime. The world will be different than it is now. Every generation faces different challenges. Learn enough about those challenges to know what you believe. Being upset about something that isn’t true is a waste of time and energy. Sadly, there are a lot of people who say things that aren’t true right now. Don’t listen to them and — more importantly — don’t be one of them.
Now, about that paper the men signed: It starts by saying, when things get so bad that people can’t listen to their government, it’s only fair that they say why they are so upset.
Then it says why they were upset. They start with some beliefs that they thought were obvious:
1) That they were all equal.
2) That God (some of them believed different things about God than others) gave them rights — among those rights were the right to be alive, the right to be free, and the right to try to be happy. If you put the last two together, you get that you are free to try to be happy. There are no promises that you will be happy, but you have the right to try to be. In fact, the maker of the universe wants you to try and no one has the right to get in your way.
That same maker of the universe gave us the will to make governments to help us with those rights. Since people make governments, and governments are supposed to do those things, when they stop doing those things, the people have the right to make a new one. This is not something to be done on a whim, but — since most people will suffer until they can’t take it anymore — we’re not worried about it. The government has done so many things and ruled with such force that we’re done with it.
The head of the government (the king of England, in their case) has refused to agree to laws that are reasonable and for the public good.
The head of the government won’t let laws be passed that are of importance to us until he agrees with them. Until he really does, he won’t put them into place.
He’s told large groups of people that he won’t let them pass laws unless they give up the right to be represented.
He sets up meetings at places and times that nobody would think of, trying to wear people down.
He’s closed people’s governments when people get upset with him.
He won’t let them elect new people, leaving the people in chaos, and open to attack because they can’t organize themselves.
He won’t let new people come here.
He won’t let us have judges so we can decide about the laws for us. He hires only his own buddies to be judges and he sends so many of his own buddies here that take what little we do have.
He has sent armies to us without letting us decide if we wanted them.
He put the military in charge, instead of the people’s government.
He and others force us to have laws imposed on us, instead of asking what we want.
He makes us put soldiers up in our houses, without asking us.
He pretends to give justice to us when those soldiers kill one of us, but never holds them responsible for their crimes.
H e won’t let us sell things to other countries.
He taxes us without asking us.
He takes us to a foreign country and they put us to trial there for made up things.
He closed one government nearby and put in another one that does what he wants.
First he told us we could be here and have our rights, now he says we can’t.
He won’t govern us, and won’t let us govern ourselves. He even declared war on us and destroyed our harbors, the land around them, and the lives of the people who live there.
He’s now sending troops to finish off the job, acting in a way that’s so unlike a real king.
Anybody that fights the government’s troops on the ocean — if they get caught — has to either kill their friends or kill themselves.
The government makes us fight against ourselves and sends in Native Americans (whom we know want to kill all of us) to attack us.
Every time we try to talk to him about all of this, he only makes it worse. Not that our fellow citizens out there help a lot. We’ve told them again and again and again what’s going on and how much pain we’re in and they don’t care. We have told them that we’re going to separate from them and they attack us. Like everybody else, they are enemies if they attack us and friends if they leave us alone.
Because of all of that, we declare ourselves free from them, free to set up a government that works for us, like any other country has. Relying on God as we understand Him, we pledge ourselves to stand up for each other, because we have as much right to dignity as they do.
And then they signed.
Having just read all of that, it’s apparent that we were wrong about what all Native Americans wanted. They didn’t all want to kill us, but we didn’t know that. So we didn’t know everything then, and we don’t know everything now. We’re doing the best we can with what we do know. Don’t be mad at us for not knowing everything. We didn’t know what we didn’t know. But, certainly, change things as you learn more.
The other thing that I notice is that it’s not all about taxes or the economy as some people would say. It’s about justice and people getting what they need. It’s about people being heard and making decisions for themselves because they are important (to God, in their case, and just in general in today’s world) and are capable of making decisions for themselves.
So live up to the promise that these men believed in — believe you are important. In your case, as a Christian, believe that you are important because God made you (and everyone and everything else). Believe you and your fellow citizens make the government what it is. Know that everybody matters and allow people to have what they need. When the government doesn’t do that, or doesn’t allow you to do that, it’s time for some changes. You can figure out what that means when you get there.
These people, though, were under serious oppression, for a long time, and their government was actually trying to kill them for what they believed. Only if things get that bad do you get to throw it all out and start again.
So, on Independence Day, 2012, be free, be smart, believe in your own worth. Get upset when things are wrong, stand up for yourself, make the government work for justice for all of its people. Understand that it might be hard work, and that you won’t always be happy, but you can try.