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 abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such From, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Two hundred and thirty-one years ago today, fifty-six men were preparing to sign their own death warrant.
(The date is somewhat arbitrary -- the fourth was the adoption by the Continental Congress, not the date of its endorsement by various colonial delegates. Still, tradition is tradition.)
It's just something I was thinking about, as I see all the chest-beating and flag-waving, all these cries of patriotism and nationalism -- that there was a time when this date was chosen to celebrate the rebellion against authority, not submission to it.
After all, a death warrant is exactly what the Declaration of Independence was -- we've somehow ended up with this image of stodgy, stately old men signing a document that was already held in reverence. Then as now, there were plenty of people who enjoyed peace, security, and luxury, urging everyone not to make trouble, to keep your heads down, everything's gonna stay afloat as long as you don't rock the boat -- and there were a number who were prepared to paint a target on their own heads and those of everyone they loved, for a principle.
It's a hell of a document, perhaps the single most eloquently phrased "Fuck-you" in human history. Hell, every time a new "war power" is declared, every time I'm told not to question our government, I remember the words:
...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.
So fuck you, Bush, fuck you, two-party duopoly, fuck you, all of those people telling me what to do, what to think and what to feel. Jefferson may have articulated the idea with better skill than I'm capable of, but the spirit remains the same.
In any case, I'm off to enjoy the fine American tradition of Chinese fireworks. But let's not forget to raise a glass and toast to what Independence Day is all about:
Here's to high treason. I'll see you around.