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This July 4th marks the 244th Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. As I reacquainted myself with the history behind the events surrounding the American Revolution, I was reminded that any attempt to portray any event in human history as a fairy tale belies the truth of human nature. The revolt against English rule was not universally accepted at the time; it is estimated that only 45% of the colonists supported the revolution. 15 to 20% fought on the side of the British and the remainder took no position; as in today’s America, they just went on about their lives. Despite the flowing prose within the Declaration of Independence professing equality and rights for all mankind, the reality was, when the Revolutionary War officially ended in 1783, slavery still existed for a large segment of the colonial population and women still had no rights to take part in their government.
Although it is overlooked by many, slavery was on its way to being totally abolished in the Northern states by 1804 and by the start of the Civil War in 1861, of the 34 existing states, 19 were free. The Civil War took a dramatic toll on life; records show the Union army suffered over 364,000 deaths and the Confederate army lost another 134,000.
The history of mankind is full of wars and conflicts over land, hate for a neighboring people, the arrogance of a culture or a righteous endeavor to end a tyrannical government. But the two major conflicts fought on American soil stand out in human history as milestones in the advancement of human rights and the God-given belief in individual freedom and human dignity. Why would over 2.2 million men follow President Lincoln into a war against their fellow Americans? The only plausible answer lies in the Bible verse, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
What America strives to be is still best summed up in the words embedded in the greatest political document ever devised by man:
“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, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”
Today, the vast majority of Americans just live their lives and have no ingrained animosity toward their neighbors. We cannot allow the recent civil unrest to falsely paint the vast majority of Americans in the vein of a few violent protesters or the deniers of inequity. Tearing down historical statues, seeking anarchy by defunding police departments and attempting to redefine America as a collection of groups defined by their innate physical qualities rather than as a congregation of individuals as we are, is a path leading to the complete abolition of the American form of government. Today’s political protests are more akin to the “light and transient causes” mentioned in the Declaration of Independence that can be addressed by altering certain government practices.
This July 4th celebration has added meaning, due to a combination of political unrest and the attacks and trade-offs being made on our personal freedoms due to a health risk. The flag still stands and the document it protects still guides us. By choosing to celebrate the 4th, despite our struggles to eliminate our inequities, we reaffirm our belief in America’s “manifest destiny”.
Contact Sen. Mike Groene: firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-471-2729.