The Declaration of Independence, 2007
By Michael M. Bates
Many times I think of just how fortunate I am to have been born in the United States. What a blessing!
There are so many places on this earth where mere existence is a daily struggle. Adversity and privation are the rule rather than the exception.
Our destiny was largely shaped by the remarkable men who founded this country. Calvin Coolidge observed that the Declaration of Independence unleashed not only a revolution against Britain, but also a revolution in human affairs. Even today, a belief in government by consent isn't universally accepted.
The Founding Fathers weren't, as they're occasionally portrayed, radicals. If anything, they were reluctant revolutionaries, slow to terminate America's relationship with England.
Democracy wasn't what they sought. They were too familiar with democracy's failings. As John Adams wrote: "The people, when they have been unchecked, have been as unjust, tyrannical, brutal, barbarous, and cruel as any king or senate possessed of uncontrollable power. The majority has eternally, and without exception, usurped over the rights of the minority."
In 1776, the Continental Congress called on Mr. Adams and Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston to draft a declaration of independence. If the declaration were to be crafted today, how different the results would be. I can see it now. . .
Several current leaders are reviewing a draft of the declaration. Barack Obama stands and is recognized:
"How did these repeated references to God get in here? I see ‘the Laws of Nature and Nature's God;' ‘they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights;' ‘appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions;' and ‘a firm reliance on the Protection of divine Providence.'
"It looks to me like the declaration's being hijacked by the Religious Right, which wants to mix religion with politics. I gave a speech warning about this nefarious scheme only yesterday at a black church where they held a campaign rally for me."
"An excellent point, Barack," comments John Edwards. "I was talking about this to the guys at the beauty parlor just this morning," he went on, making a mental note that it had been three weeks since he last campaigned at a black church and he'd better line up more.
Hillary Clinton speaks next. "I strongly object to this reference about the king dissolving representative houses because they've resisted ‘with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.' What's this manly firmness nonsense? Ya know, that's just plain sexist. Some of the manliest people I know, ya know, are women working to get me elected. Isn't that right, Bill?"
Mr. Clinton responds with a weary nod. Until recently, he'd never lost an arm wrestling match. At least not to a woman.
Then George W. Bush talks. He joins in denouncing the king for "obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners." Mr. Bush says the king, whom he admires greatly, is very wrong in not legalizing illegal immigrants. "And I say this as one who owns every album Elvis ever made," he concludes.
Mitt Romney states the part about "the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions" is OK with him as he's not counting on the Native American vote to push him over the top. But he wants assurances that "tar baby" won't be added to the document.
"I don't like this section claiming the king imposes taxes on us without our permission. Flat out, man, it makes him sound too much like a Democrat," declares Joe Biden. "Or, as I once wrote, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom. . . '"
"There you go again, Joe," interjects Bill Richardson. "Next thing you know, you'll be bragging you were drafted by the Kansas City Athletics. And you know darn well that's my lie."
And so it goes. Dick Cheney's prepared his own draft, but won't let anyone to see it. He claims executive privilege. And legislative privilege, too.
Rudy Giuliani wants the right to choose abortion addressed in the document. Dennis Kucinich doesn't want anything but a declaration of dependence, pledging Americans will do whatever they're told to by anyone in the world through his proposed Department of Peace.
Seeing the personalities littering the political landscape today makes it even more obvious how lucky we were to have men of the stature and genius of the Founding Fathers. We thank a benevolent God that they set us on the right course. And ask His continued blessings on this Republic.
Happy Independence Day.
This Michael Bates column appeared in the June 28, 2007 Reporter Newspapers.