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FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JULY 2, 2013
OUR DELICATE IMPERILED DEMOCRACY
BY BOB FRANKEN
From the useless-information department: The 13 American Colonies legally separated from England on July 2, 1776. We celebrate on July 4 because it took two days for the Declaration of Independence to be officially adopted. Even back then, paperwork slowed things down.
Be that as it may, the soaring language of the document, crafted mainly by Thomas Jefferson, has served as our country’s inspiration for 237 years. It lives on as a warning about one of the biggest enemies of the egalitarian ideals that define this nation: expedience. It’s important that we constantly reflect on the dangers of taking the shortcuts that are perpetually a temptation to the thoughtless or ruthlessly ambitious.
Perhaps the most important sentence of the Declaration was and is, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Now that we’ve come to a point in history where we’ve shed the injustices of the 18th century, such as the suppression of women and the evil of slavery, we can really strive for the full meaning of those words. The United States of America must always be led by those chosen in orderly elections available to everyone, because “all men were created equal.” And yet, here we have today, a Supreme Court majority undermining a law that helped to enforce that precious right, and here we have today cynical, self-serving partisans coming up with various schemes to disenfranchise those who don’t happen to share their political views.
In this 21st century, we still have a cabal trying to disrupt the orderly government that ultimately grew out of our revolution. They use their wealth to gain unfair advantage. They intrude on our lives in ways no one could even imagine back at our nation's beginning. Instead of “Taxation Without Representation,” today we have taxation without fairness. All of which eats away at the support of the people who grow weary of what Jefferson called “a long train of abuses and usurpations.”
All too often, an examination of the Declaration of Independence leads to foolish argument about its ultimate purpose, which was enumerating the right to rise up against the established order “to alter or to abolish it and to institute new government.” In other words, is it a boilerplate justification for overthrowing today’s government? When someone raises that question, the conversation can plunge into foolishness in a hurry. No one in his right mind wants that.
As simple-minded as it sounds, the phrase “America, love it or leave it” makes a valid point. It’s a lot worse in so many other countries than it is here, but we need to deal with some glaring flaws. We can truly show our love for this nation by addressing them while protecting the principles that make it unique and resisting those who would take unfair advantage of our liberties. We want to make this grand experiment work, and not allow it to be eroded by laziness, sloppiness or unscrupulousness. Somebody or other, it’s not clear whether it was Jefferson or another sound-bite maven, proclaimed “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Whoever first uttered those words was right on the money. Far too many of us have let the frustrations of modern times lead us to conclude that civic duty really has become an exercise in futility. We can easily fritter away our precious freedoms in shortsighted ways or we can stick to the principles outlined by our Founding Fathers.
Speaking of those guys, there is a growing movement to refer to the 1776 signers as “Founding Founders” instead of “Fathers.” It ignores reality, but the reasons are obvious, and I’ll leave it to someone else to decide whether it’s a bit too PC. Whichever, the yearly celebration of their stirring vision is a reminder that we cannot afford now to allow ourselves to keep foundering.
© 2013 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.