It’s been 243 years since the signing of “The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America,” aka the Declaration of Independence, to address grievances regarding the ruling power of the “British Crown,” our reason for fireworks and barbecue mid-summer season.
It’s important to note, however, that the Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed after defeating the British; the treaties of peace between the two didn’t occur until November 1782. The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 after years of escalating tensions over British “taxation without representation” — the Boston Tea Party was one of the first acts of rebellion that led to the Revolutionary War. This was the official declaration of “we are mad as hell and we aren’t going to take it any more” with Great Britain.
Looking back at the immigrants who risked literal life and limb and ridicule from ruling classes in the New World and their homeland, the earliest colonizers of the 1700s were willing to risk it all due to lack of job and land ownership opportunities, crop failure, famine, religious and political persecution, etc. On Ancestory.com, “Migration to America in the 1700s,” there is a timeline of events for immigration into the colonies leading up to the Revolutionary War. For example:
1717: The English Parliament legalized transportation to American colonies as punishment; contractors began regular shipments from jails, mostly to Virginia and Maryland.
1718: Discontent with the land system: Absentee landlords, high rents, and short leases in the homeland motivated large numbers of Scotch-Irish to emigrate. Most settled first in New England, then in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Now, flash forward to July 4, 2019, where corporations are people and kids are property and the majority of the land is owned by a relative few . . . and then we get angry about the homeless around us.
We are a land where the politicians say they aren’t on repeat, yet are saying the exact same things their predecessors said before them, and the voters can’t tell the difference. Still, we keep referring to our democracy as the best and fairest in the world despite the prevalence of sad news of the human condition coming from our beleaguered states.
At best, the general public is relegated to slim choices of only two parties and that is the best representation the Revolutionary War has gotten us, for a total population of 327 million and counting.
We created the Bill of Rights, along with the Declaration of Independence, to ensure certain freedoms that were denied our Founding Fathers and their ancestors would not be taken away from future generations:
“All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
But looking at the Bill of Rights, at just the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” there is erosion from the inside.
As we look at family dysfunction, workplace tensions and social awkwardness, it’s all about “freedom of speech,” the things we say, how we say them and that we do not offend or anger any one at any time, lest … what?
For instance, one can lose their rights to see their children, based on an exchange of words in a heated argument. A kid can be expelled for “willful defiance,” whatever the authority figure interprets that to be. A kid was arrested at Buena High School for saying he would shoot up a school — no one seemed to make a big deal about why he felt that way, including being ignored or bullied. A man was arrested in November 2018 for making a credible threat to an officer but the Ventura City Attorney’s office and Ventura Police Department denied access to those records of the words that were exchanged. When authority figures ignore context of what led to a heated exchange of words, we are then forced into a system of judgement and free speech rights are murky, period.
When World War II was over, there was some very tangible sense of unity, victory against tyranny and genocide, a shared vision of hope and promise despite underpinnings of other injustice. Now, we get suspicious of people looking at our car, which means those who don’t want to appear suspicious will also not look at any car. We are consumed by unjustified fear, national politics and arbitrary causes, neglecting our neighbors, friends and family on the street and failing to realize we are becoming the country our ancestors risked it all to escape.
As we celebrate the official Declaration of Independence, one question comes to mind:
What is the difference between freedom and independence? One is earned, lest we don’t know what we have until it’s gone; and the other is a mission.