Today is the Fourth of July, Independence Day, the day in 1776 when our forefathers decided they’d had enough of a repressive and violent government.
If you’ve never done it, or if it’s been a while, Google the Declaration of Independence and read through it. The whole thing. Not just the first part your teacher made you memorize.
Once you get past the beautiful prose at the beginning that established the principles upon which the rest of the document was based, you’ll find basically a long list of grievances, “injuries and usurpations,” as Thomas Jefferson so eloquently put it.
It might be instructive — in our role as citizens of the nation that was created on the basis of this declaration — to reflect on those grievances and consider how far we’ve come, or not come, in the ensuing 244 years since the Declaration was written.
Of course, many of the complaints are exclusive to the time period and the British king. Look past the details of the complaints and examine the fundamental issues raised in them.
Some of the actions our Colonial forefathers found objectionable are disturbingly familiar to some of the issues raising concerns in our modern times.
How much, for instance, does our government obstruct the administration of justice by depriving people — especially the indigent, minorities and immigrants — of their right to adequate counsel or a fair and speedy trial?
How much does the document’s complaint about rendering the “Military independent of and superior to the Civil power” reflect some of the police and military actions against peaceful protesters and the media during the recent George Floyd-inspired protests?
How much are appointed justices today compelled to bend to the will of their appointers? How much has our trade been cut off with other parts of the world? How long have residents of Washington, D.C., been taxed and had laws imposed on them without their own representation in Congress?
How frustrated have many citizens been over the unwillingness of government to listen to their grievances?
We’re certainly not saying that the conditions that existed in 1776 are identical to the conditions in the United States in 2020. There was much more going on than the authors articulated.
But there are disturbing parallels to some of those grievances that should serve as red flags for us today, reminding us all to keep vigilant in standing up for our own rights and those of our fellow citizens. If we don’t fight for those rights, they will be taken from us.
Today is the perfect day to reflect on that.