Scratch the surface of the average American with regard to our fundamental documents and you quickly descend into a morass of confusion. Throw in a quote of note and they can't really tell you which of the core documents it came from. Imply to them that the Constitution describes a limited government designed to be subservient to the states from which that national entity derives power and you will get scoffs and eye-rolling. Use words like delegated and reserved with an occasional enumerated for good measure and they walk away knowing they have encountered a total buffoon who knows nothing about reality.
Delve into rights and liberty and the discussion, if it has survived the initial stages, goes downhill rapidly. The list of rights is quickly revealed as a perspective of entitlements. It isn't about opportunities it is about outcomes. It isn't about responsibility, it is about dependency. Dependency, a strange convolution of what we celebrate today...our independence.
Freedom Must Still Ring
We celebrate today the anniversary of a people standing up and saying to their colonial masters, enough! The Declaration of Independence is a masterful piece of writing. It is a manifesto stating a clear belief in the relationship between a people and a government obligated to serve the best interests of those people. It is a statement that man is endowed with rights, they are not bestowed by a benevolent government. Government has no "rights" to dole out. We are born with rights. They are fundamental and whether stated by John Locke or paraphrased by Thomas Jefferson, they are very basic. The trilogy seems brief but when you probe it becomes very inclusive. Life, liberty and pursuit of property were the words of Locke. Jefferson's shift to "happiness" doesn't really change a thing. My success in attaining the means to live my life and support my family brings me great happiness.
Notice that the right is not to property or happiness. It is the right to pursue that goal. If I fail to attain it, that isn't the government's concern. It is mine alone. I was given the right to pursue the objective.
The Declaration explained to the King the grievances which led to the need for such a manifesto. It laid an unassailable foundation of reason then illustrated where George had violated the social contract. It justified our independence.
The Declaration of Independence is not the law of the land. That is the Constitution. It is a statement of principles stated with remarkable precision and incredibly concise. Understanding what it says seems simple, but if we look around us at America today we must wonder when we abandoned the beliefs.
Remember today what was done in 1776. Reflect on what the pledge of life, fortune and sacred honor meant to those men. Spend a moment to quietly reflect upon that flag. Then enjoy your ball game, your barbecue, your family and maybe your fireworks. But remember why we celebrate.