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July 4th, 1776: Declaring our independence AND ideals

One of only 25 known surviving copies of the Declaration of Independence which were printed July 4, 1776 sits on display at Sotheby’s June 22, 2000 in New York City. The document was bought at auction for $8.14 million on Sotheby’s web site June 29, 2000. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Newsmakers)

On this day in 1776 when the American colonies 2nd Continental Congress declared our independence from Britain, the Declaration of Independence was printed and distributed. It was a simple declarative given a year after the American Revolutionary war began, but has become more symbolic over time.

Many view this declaration as more than the Colonists officially telling Britain to go pound sand, but rather it was a fundmentally important building block in the formation of our American ideological foundation, a key basis for our guiding principles and the creation of a great nation, and a bold affirmation that we were done with an oppressive, empire-building country.

Its first few lines have resonated with me since I was in grade school: “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.”

Those lines in bold were ones I’ve believed in since I was first taught American History, fighting to stay awake as my buddy Mike F. tried to make me laugh in class, knowing *I* would be the one to catch hell.

As a former Republican and now a fierce independent, I’ve grown profoundly disturbed over the last eight years as those childish beliefs of mine in “by the people,” “liberty,” “rule of law,” “haebeus corpus,” have given way to an adult understanding that power is all that matters, demonstrated by our current Administration who has clearly shown us their belief that “the people” are to be “Governed” and that the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights are nothing but quaint historical relics that they have reigning presidential powers over and can “alter or abolish.”

Unless you and I actually do believe in our American ideals and are willing to stand up for them and take back that power (and give “the consent of the governed” to those willing to serve vs. dictate), then the 4th of July is nothing but a meaningless excuse to barbecue, shoot off fireworks and buy stuff on sale.