Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Glorious 4th

This Friday will be the 4th of July. Parades, picnics, fireworks, all that stuff. For 10 or 12 years in the ’80s and ’90s our family and a bunch of friends migrated to a nearby town for a gigantic community do. I used to steam mussels, friends brought their specialties, we drank a lot of beer and wine, and as it got dark we settled back for a long, noisy, wonderful fireworks display. For some years now, we’ve been joining friends with a swimming pool for a somewhat more genteel afternoon of paddling, tasting, and sipping. The highlight of the event isn’t fireworks, but a reading of the Declaration of Independence. Most of us are of an age to have been required to memorize parts of the Declaration in school, and as we listen we tend to recite it to ourselves as many do the Book of Common Prayer. It is one of humanity’s great documents, and it can still inspire awe—not just in Americans, I think.

Many of us forget, though, that the bulk of it—the long middle section we weren’t required to commit to memory—is a litany of complaints against George III. The signers believed that “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” required that that the world know why they were taking such an extraordinary and dangerous step. This part of the Declaration is often considered quaint, even funny, at this distant remove. But in 2008, only the dullest listener or reader could fail to notice that many of the items enumerated to demonstrate “a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny” aren’t very different at all from what the current President of the United States, his administration, and his party in Congress have been busy with over the last seven years.

Ben Franklin once famously said, “The man who trades freedom for security doesn’t deserve either.” This is a universe away our current political standard, enunciated by the administration and its boot-lickers, who have done their craven best to make that transaction seem like common sense, rather than the cowardly surrender to terror that it is. For example, Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), asserts, “I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment and civil liberties, but you have no civil liberties if you are dead.”

Right, Senator, and I’m sure the men who put their heads in a noose by signing the document we celebrate this week would appreciate the sentiment. Besides, it’s no big deal. The First Amendment merely guarantees freedom of religion, speech, the press, assembly, and peaceful protest. The Fourth Amendment is truly subversive … it prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.

At the end of the Constitutional deliberations in 1789, Franklin was asked. “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”

“A Republic, if you can keep it.”

The jury’s still out. Oh, wait, do we still do juries?


AktoMan said...

An amazing document, considering it was written during the War (I cannot call it a Revolution). A shame that some of the French that supported the Americans were arrested later by during the French Revolution.

Difficult to write anything more without opening a can of worms re the politics of the day, and the politics of now.

how's the quote go: if we do not learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it's mistakes. Or something like that.

bloggrazer said...

There is nothing pedestrian about your blog, Mr. Alvarez. I enjoy your observations about life, the joys of trekking, and everything in between.

Happy 4th of July to you and yours!

A fellow Dartmouth alum(na) and CT resident