In the normal course of life I don’t think about the words of the Declaration of Independence very often. Like a lot of us I take a lot for granted. Life is as it is and as it has been. Life is comfortable for the most part.
“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. But when a long train
of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably
the same Object evinces a design to reduce them
under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is
their duty, to throw off such Government, and to
provide new Guards for their future security.”
But then, on occasion, something comes up to make me reflect once more on the amazing document that the Declaration of Independence was and is. Surely the rush of daily life — and in particular the rarified atmosphere of the halls of governmental power — give us many reasons to forget the grand themes and get bogged down in the minutea of living, of governing, of interacting in a dangerous world filled with evil as well as men and women who want nothing more than to exercise power for their own purposes.
In 2018 I wonder, how much there is that is “self-evident.” We are so sophisticated that I think we overlook a lot of basic values because we think them too simple. For that matter, we live in a society that has largely given up values; I say that because no one wants to be adjudged “wrong” and the so-called “traditional” values that once influenced governance of this nation have largely been cast off — even by those who say they are Christians. I fear no contradiction to that statement. Those who claim to be Christians have abandoned the admonitions of Jesus right down the line, from caring for the poor, for speaking justly and honestly… well, you get the idea. Open the Bible and read what Jesus said, and tell me which, if any, politician you can find who DOES any of them. Going to church doesn’t make anyone a Christian; no more than going to McDonalds makes anyone a hamburger.
When I think back to the clandestine moves by Republicans over the past year to craft new legislation, without hearings, without consultation with other parties or constituencies, and without detailed review of the unintended consequences of the legislation I’m minded of how differently our Declaration of Independence was crafted. It was a different time, but a time when those involved were in agreement on the need to take action. Right now we aren’t in agreement about much of anything…
Allow me to insert this quote from Wikipedia:
[regarding the drafting of the Declaration of Independence] “Political maneuvering was setting the stage for an official declaration of independence even while a document was being written to explain the decision. On June 11, 1776, Congress appointed a “Committee of Five” to draft a declaration, consisting of John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut. The committee left no minutes, so there is some uncertainty about how the drafting process proceeded; contradictory accounts were written many years later by Jefferson and Adams, too many years to be regarded as entirely reliable—although their accounts are frequently cited. What is certain is that the committee discussed the general outline which the document should follow and decided that Jefferson would write the first draft. The committee in general, and Jefferson in particular, thought that Adams should write the document, but Adams persuaded the committee to choose Jefferson and promised to consult with him personally. Considering Congress’s busy schedule, Jefferson probably had limited time for writing over the next seventeen days, and likely wrote the draft quickly. He then consulted the others and made some changes, and then produced another copy incorporating these alterations. The committee presented this copy to the Congress on June 28, 1776. The title of the document was “A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled.”
Congress ordered that the draft “lie on the table”. For two days, Congress methodically edited Jefferson’s primary document, shortening it by a fourth, removing unnecessary wording, and improving sentence structure. They removed Jefferson’s assertion that Britain had forced slavery on the colonies in order to moderate the document and appease persons in Britain who supported the Revolution. Jefferson wrote that Congress had “mangled” his draft version, but the Declaration that was finally produced was “the majestic document that inspired both contemporaries and posterity,” in the words of his biographer John Ferling.
Congress tabled the draft of the declaration on Monday, July 1, and resolved itself into a committee of the whole, with Benjamin Harrison of Virginia presiding, and they resumed debate on Lee’s resolution of independence. John Dickinson made one last effort to delay the decision, arguing that Congress should not declare independence without first securing a foreign alliance and finalizing the Articles of Confederation. John Adams gave a speech in reply to Dickinson, restating the case for an immediate declaration.
A vote was taken after a long day of speeches, each colony casting a single vote, as always. The delegation for each colony numbered from two to seven members, and each delegation voted amongst themselves to determine the colony’s vote. Pennsylvania and South Carolina voted against declaring independence. The New York delegation abstained, lacking permission to vote for independence. Delaware cast no vote because the delegation was split between Thomas McKean (who voted yes) and George Read (who voted no). The remaining nine delegations voted in favor of independence, which meant that the resolution had been approved by the committee of the whole. The next step was for the resolution to be voted upon by Congress itself. Edward Rutledge of South Carolina was opposed to Lee’s resolution but desirous of unanimity, and he moved that the vote be postponed until the following day.
On July 2, South Carolina reversed its position and voted for independence. In the Pennsylvania delegation, Dickinson and Robert Morris abstained, allowing the delegation to vote three-to-two in favor of independence. The tie in the Delaware delegation was broken by the timely arrival of Caesar Rodney, who voted for independence. The New York delegation abstained once again since they were still not authorized to vote for independence, although they were allowed to do so a week later by the New York Provincial Congress. The resolution of independence had been adopted with twelve affirmative votes and one abstention. With this, the colonies had officially severed political ties with Great Britain.
John Adams predicted in a famous letter, written to his wife on the following day, that July 2 would become a great American holiday. He thought that the vote for independence would be commemorated; he did not foresee that Americans—including himself—would instead celebrate Independence Day on the date when the announcement of that act was finalized.
“I am apt to believe that [Independence Day] will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever.”
I have to admit that lately I’ve been ill-inclined to write. On some levels I say, “what’s the sense.” There are already so many voices making noise. Just like there are too many people making pictures. With images I have my own voice. I know what the images I create look like. I’m not in competition to express myself. I don’t NEED to do that now. Similarly with words, there are too many people whinging and complaining about Trump and about almost anything else you can think of. Sexual harrassment issues vie for attention against violence control and healthcare and homelssness and human trafficking and refugees. I keep hoping that one day I’ll wake up and one of our elected representatives will open their mouth and sound as if they care about any of the large issues facing us and that they will become a rallying point for solidarity. Surely the nation cannot rely upon Prez45 to do so, he waffles back and forth on issues and when pressed it’s always someone else who’s supposed to come up with the plan and he’ll be happy to sign it. He just wants to sign the deal, I honestly think he couldn’t care less what’s IN the deal, as long as he can attach his name to it.
Excuses aside, what we have is not working. It hasn’t been working for the last 9 years at least. From the time Obama took office and the Republicans decided to thwart him at every opportunity all we have had is obstructionism. Now that Republicans control House, Senate, and the Executive their infighting prevents them from doing anything positive; all they want to do is negate anything with former President Obama’s signature on it. When we have earth shaking problems — that’s more literally true than I’d like to admit given the seismic results of fracking — and the only people being heard are those who donate millions of dollars to politicians — and you know that their objectives are not to make life in the U.S. better for it’s citizens: their objectives are simple: profit.
Since Peg & I arrived here in Milwaukee I’ve been chafing and restless. I’m happy being here. I seek no change to our positioning. But I’m unhappy about how I’m spending my time. When we were RV’ing my blogged served very specific purposes, not the least of which was staying on contact with a lifetime of friends and sharing the fun we were having along the road.
Now that we are living a more “normal” life the old purpose for this blog ceased to exist. I took a break in hopes of revising my sense of direction. But, I find myself returning too often to topics I really don’t care that much about; and yet I can’t help myself. It’s not the politicians that trouble me. It’s the population of this country that trouble me. I may see myself in many ways as “a pilgrim and a stranger in a foreign land” but even pilgrims and strangers can be mystified by the behavior of the residents!
Normalization. It’s a word I dislike intensely. We normalize a lot of things. We even normalize pain. My son in law is still having difficulties with that foot he broke several years ago and it constantly amazes me how his mind and body have enabled him to adapt to disabling pain. The same things happen with societal and cultural influences and there are days when I want to scream at the top of my voice because so many of the people I know seem not to care about the governance of this nation/state/city.
Last week’s election was, I realize, hardly enough to get people involved. At my polling place we voted on school board members and supreme court candidates. A lot of people thought it wasn’t enough to bother turning out for. In the city of Franklin 22% of the population turned out. In Milwaukee county 17% of the population turned out. No one cares. Judges are a hugely important position. Education is a hugely important issue. But virtually no one bothered to vote.
Afterwards I wanted to take all the NEWS apps off my devices and pretend I’m like all those dunces who don’t care about what’s happening in their own backyard. Perhaps I should. It doesn’t do me any good to care and let my caring spike my blood pressure. That’s a particular weak spot with my heart issues and I ought to know better. I really don’t want to die because of some stupid thing Drump has tweeted or the latest way he’s embarrassed this country. It’s not Drump who upsets me as much as it is that the population at large aren’t willing to get upset enough to make a difference.
You and I both know that I’m not upset at Trump. He was a mean, selfish bully all his life; I’m not telling any secrets here. Personally, I never expected him to change from who he had been for 70 years. Anyone who has been involved in so many bankruptcies, and marriages, and lawsuits has demonstrated to the world many years ago and many times over that he was not the kind of man who would make a President any nation could be proud of. What troubles me is that so many people were so greedy for power, so racist and bigotted that they ignored a 70 year history just so they could get their way in government. Heaven knows Hillary was no “bargain” as a politician, but she’s been investigated time and again without charges, she’s lived a life of public service — even if you don’t like the things she did while a public servant — at least she wasn’t stealing the taxpayers blind. The electorate gave us two lousy choices; but half of the country had to ignore a whole lot in order to prefer the Republican choice over the Democratic choice.
There’s that old expression about “cutting off your nose to spite your face.” You have to hate something a whole lot to be willing to damage yourself in order to get even with someone else. That’s what that expression means. And that’s what I’m frustrated about. How so many people could be taken in by this pompous egotist that they would be willing to harm the nation they live in as well as the earth on which we all live just to get even with Hillary and to wipe out the legacy of a great President who just happened to be black. This administration has no goals other than to undo anything that Obama did and to pack the judiciary with judges who will steal away the protections of law from the poor and the uneducated.
You don’t need a degreee in architecture to wreck a building. You can go to the street corner and hire day laborers to tear something down. That is essentially what the electorate did in 2016. Voters hired a wrecking crew.
As a Christian, I know that the United States of America is just like every other country on this planet. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” And I believe that. I wait for a kingdom “who’s builder and maker is God.” I know full well that as long as I’m alive on this earth I’ll still be waiting; my hope is not in this world. And I know that a great many people think I’m crazy for thinking that way. Which is fine. They can think anything they want about me; I know Whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to Him unto the last day.
I really don’t know where I’m going to go with this blog. There are times I feel like John the Baptist, “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord.’ ” But I have no illusions of divine anointing. I’m just a guy who looks at events and sees in what is happening the direction of movement — knowing that when you go far enough down any given road there are going to be consequences. And we are seeing them now.
There are wonderful things going on around us in this world, they deserve to be talked about.
There are scary things going on around us in this world, they too deserve to be talked about.
I’m fidgety right now. It’s kind of like being a pre-teen all over again — waiting for my voice to drop. Since my early teens I’ve been a bass, always following along on that bottom line of the composition — not usually singing the melody — but always trying to find the harmony.
I need to find a route, a new voice, a new splash of color. The fact that I’m still fidgeting tells me I’m not there yet.
I was looking at a camera catalog the other day and my eyes were drawn to video cameras. “I should try that” I said to myself. But then I thought, “you can do videos on your smartphone and you hardly ever shoot them…. why buy a video camera?”
And the truth quite simply is, I don’t think that way. I know what I don’t know; what I don’t do; what I’m not good at. I need to settle more firmly on what I’m supposed to be DOING.