Today is Independence Day.
I wrote the following article some time ago for another Fourth of July, and it continues to circulate around the internet.
There should be one day when we can all stand together as one, put aside our differences, and show the world that we are still united.
If only for a few hours.
This is that day.
May God bless America, as well as you and yours.
Ben H. English
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
Today marks the 244th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. However and contrary to common belief, it was not signed on this date. That would occur over the following months as representatives of the different colonies discussed its ramifications with their fellow citizens back home. Communications traveled a tortuous path in the late 18th Century, especially over hundreds of miles of what could still be termed as wilderness.
Yet the word did get out and this document was signed, sparking a revolution that shook the western world to its core. Fifty-six men, aided by others famous in their own right as well as unsung thousands more, formulated an enduring experiment encompassing the radical idea of individual freedoms and liberties.
And what of this final, greatest hope devised and constructed by man? From the mists of time and space beyond, a plaintive voice calls out across a broad divide: “How goes it, fellow countrymen? How goes it for what we fought and bled and died for in noble cause?”
What do we reply? What is the current condition of this nation once known as the “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave?”
The very essence of the American Experiment is facing a crisis in soul and purpose undreamed of in generations past. The average modern American is more ignorant than ever before of what it took to win that Revolution and keep the Constitutional Republic that followed. They possess little sense of their belonging in this grandest of endeavors, nor do they give any inclination of wanting to learn.
To them the word ‘American’ is simply that, a word. There is no connotation in their minds of unique and precious traditions, philosophies of government and the simple definition of E Pluribus Unum. At best they might mimic the first stanza of the Star Spangled Banner at a sports event and even be able to stumble their way through the Pledge of Allegiance. That is, if they are not cowered into silence by others who seem to have an almost rabid hate for anything having to do with being an American.
Ah, but what of that lauded concept known as “American Exceptionalism,” which was an inalienable part of most of this nation’s history? In the eyes of so many these days, we are nothing more than just another place to be on a world map. The very idea of this vitally necessary foundational belief is pooh-poohed in public by those who have benefited most from it, with the least amount of personal sacrifice.
When faced with evidence contrary to their ill-considered statements, they invariably state the same old tired refrains recited in the manner of a well-trained parrot. We did not ‘win,’ our Revolution, we would have never had a chance if not for the French and the many other pressing matters the British Empire faced at that time. In their eyes, the results of the American Revolution are as arbitrarily the same as a particularly ugly bit of surgery in which the patient just happened to live.
To them the idea of Manifest Destiny is a crime comparable to the Holocaust, each of the errors made in our progress forward from Yorktown illuminated and magnified to being an unpardonable blight upon mankind. Whatever America has accomplished for good was by pure accident, while those accompanying small parts of the bad are the planned manipulation made possible by a “bunch of old dead white men” of purely malignant intent.
Let me assure my fellow Americans this much: all of what happened did not occur wholly by accident or at the hands of the average 1770s Homo Sapiens. Never before in history did such a diverse, gifted, intelligent and honorable group of men come together for a common purpose; one in which they had the courage to pledge themselves, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Never before outside the pages of the Bible did such determined men lead such a small number of people against a massive military, economic and political power and not only manage to persevere, but to thrive.
And what of those who faced shot and shell, disease and famine, and the constant thought of possible destruction and/or death brought on by the most powerful military on the planet, a military that considered these pathetic rebels little more than a traitorous rabble? The biggest knave in Washington’s Army who suffered through Valley Forge was a far nobler creature with a greater sense of purpose than a sizable number of Americans living now. His trials and miseries made it possible for his descendants to listen mindlessly while some talking head spouts off about the perceived mythology of this idea called American Exceptionalism.
Let me be quite clear on this. In the years of 1775 to 1783 all our nation needed was the inclusion of some stone tablets, the parting of a sea and forty years of wandering around in a wilderness to make our collective journey complete. And yet someone still has the unmitigated gall and acute ignorance to claim there is nothing to this “American Exceptionalism?” Then show me another founding document dating from the eighteenth century that begins with; “We the People…”, and is still considered a cornerstone of enlightened government all these hundreds of years later.
Pardon my gullibility, but that sounds pretty exceptional to me.
So what has happened? Why our disbelief, our pessimism, our timidity when confronted by those who would disinherit us all? It is the natural result from a rotting devolvement in three vital convictions: belief in God, belief in country and belief in those fellow Americans who exemplify our very best, our heroes.
By definition a hero is someone who risks life and limb for the benefit or betterment of others, someone willing to sacrifice all their tomorrows for a higher idea or calling. Unfortunately, the word hero has also become just another word to be played upon in modern America. The other day our mass media outlets were proclaiming a soccer goalie a “hero” because he had a good game that afternoon. There lies the bottom of the pit that we have reached in our nation’s psyche.
Country? We have already touched upon that and the accompanying denial of American Exceptionalism. There have been many great generations who contributed to this concept, but the greatest of all where the ones who first set the grand experiment into motion, the ones we refer to as our Founding Fathers. From there forward certain other generations have encountered great moments of both crisis and conscience, and have finished those endeavors with our shining city on the hill rising to even greater heights. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and only have to maintain and fine tune that same city to reach for the very stars themselves.
But ask yourself, have we?
God? Nowhere do I see a more dangerous trend in modern America than in the turning of our backs on an Almighty and Omnipresent God in Heaven. The steady extinguishing of that Divine Spark in each of us sounds the death knell for our Republic. Scholars may argue about which particular Founding Father was of what denomination, or of no denomination at all, but the evidence is overwhelming that they and the nation they created were steeped in Judeo-Christian theology and principles. We stray from that foundation at the risk of not only our personal souls, but of our national one.
Perhaps in the end that is the key to it all: you have to believe, we have to believe. That is, we have to believe in something more honorable and worthy than ourselves and our own petty self-gratifications. Perhaps we have come to the fork in the path where we should not be so concerned with the heroism of others, but of the tiniest glint of heroism which may still reside in ourselves.
“How goes it, fellow countrymen?”
That same plaintive voice still cries out.
It is calling to you.
How do you answer?
Ben H. English