Our national birthday celebration is about to begin. There will be municipal fireworks, concerts and parades. Neighbors will enjoy backyard barbecues and block parties. The stars and stripes will be visible on every street. Cable television will be filled with old movies that are considered patriotic.
Everyone celebrates. Many have no idea why.
The men who actually gave birth to this nation were not at a party. They had just written, and signed, a document that meant they could be hanged if they were caught. They had debated every single word and comma of that document for days in 90 degree heat in a closed room in Philadelphia.
Those men were explaining what beliefs were so important to them that each of them was willing to give up his property, and even his life, in their defense. The document was a statement of those beliefs. And those men made their statement with the British fleet sitting in a harbor less than 100 miles away, and the British army within striking distance.
The words of that statement have been called the "most potent and consequential words in American history". The words of that statement created an America with a unique heritage.
A heritage that rests upon an understanding of the fact that each person is endowed with inalienable rights by a Creator, and that the fundamental purpose of government is to protect those God-given rights.
That single statement recognizing endowed rights in our Declaration defined America. It created a national mindset that allowed every new settler to leave the old stereotypes and hatreds and limits behind when he came to our shores. It sent a message that in America each person was someone of worth who deserved the opportunity to succeed because he was created that way. Our greatest moments came when we fully embraced our heritage, and our darkest came when we rejected it.
Today, that heritage is being systematically eroded and slowly replaced by the same "government is almighty" philosophy that this country’s founders rebelled against. Today’s America is a country coming apart.
We are disconnecting from the fact that there is a Creator, who has authority beyond that of the government. Without a Creator, there can be no inalienable rights. There are only privileges extended by an almighty government.
Privileges for which citizens must compete, making division inevitable.
We are disconnecting from each other, dividing into economic classes, age groups, ethnicities, entitlement recipients, and special interests who are competing with each other for dominance in the hierarchy of government privileges. Privileges that the government labels as "rights", in an ever-expanding list that now even includes things like internet access and cell phone ownership. At the same time, the original list of inalienable rights is disappearing from the national consciousness.
So instead of a nation where rights flowed from Creator to individual, and the government was the "help" hired to protect what each of us already had, we are becoming a nation where the government decides who has what "rights" under what circumstances, including the ability to publicly recognize the Creator.
We may still have the fireworks and the concerts and the parades and the barbecues, but one wonders what we have that is worth celebrating. Perhaps instead of the party, we should stop and remember the words that were the original American gift.
"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."