240 years ago, we declared ourselves to be free from governance by the King of England and made the statement that we were a free and self-governing people and essentially said we weren’t about to pay tribute ever again. So far, so good! We are still here and we are still free and we have survived for over two centuries and are well into our third century.
I enjoy occasionally watching British Parliment and the antics and posturing of their leaders and members as they carry on debates in their own somewhat unique manner. They probably occasionally watch our Congress and may well say a brief prayer of thanks to themselves that they are not burdened with needing to attempt to govern such an unruly bunch who have seemed to learn little in the past 240 years.
The Declaration of Independence set forth our complaints and laid our plans to do something about the mess we felt we had endured for far long enough. This is the one day of the year during which we might actually take a peek at that document, wondering at the, by today’s standards, stilted language and giving thought to the personal risks taken by each of the signatories.
Watching how we go about governing ourselves today, I have to wonder if our forefathers would recognize that which they declared to be 240 years earlier. Would they be proud of what they declared to be the new thirteen United States of America? Would they see their creation as being worthy of the great risk they had each taken by placing their signature on that document? Would they be surprised at the ending of slavery which many of them engaged in and supported vigorously? Would they be surprised at the place our female citizens have in our society today?
Would our Congress of today be able to muster itself and bring forward a similar declaration of such great importance or would it be relegated to high political dudgeon as seems often the case today for things of far less magnitude than was this document? I fear that a declaration of such magnitude would be a process we might never achieve in a lifetime if it were to be made today. We obviously have defended ourselves with our military might in our more recent history. We demonstrate that we can actually take giant steps that carry significant risk, but do we do that with the individual personal courage that was evidenced by those early signatories, or do we do it from the safety of a nameless/faceless voter instructing his or her elected representatives?
The signatories of 240 years ago laid it all on the line. Each of us would need to make his or her own decision about stepping out into the harsh light of day to take a stand. That is what many of us elect people to do for us…and then we lament that they don’t do it right or stop too soon or any of a number of other individual voter complaints. We can be a sorry and perplexing bunch.
It is interesting that Great Britain may face another such set of issues with the recent Brexit vote. Scotland, my ancestral country, continues to make noises about leaving the cover of Great Britain and literally going it alone as a continuing member of the European Union. The more things change, it seems, the more things stay the same…some 240 years removed.