The Innate Humanity of July 4

 

Today’s struggles are the struggles of millennia. Human beings are complex and the societies they form are just as complex. Two-hundred-forty-six years ago, a statement was issued that distilled the challenge of humanity:

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.

Whoever was left out of this original formulation, it stands as a statement through which every society can be measured and judged. It stands as a reproof to slavery; it stands as a rebuke to authoritarians; it stands as an aspiration that spurs refinement in our societal norms.

And it underscores the fundamental human problem: How do we strike a balance between individuals singularly and in groups? An example of “between individuals singularly” is abortion policy: When do we recognize the humanity of the unborn and when does that humanity limit the choices of another human being? An example of “between individuals … and … groups” is gun control policy: When, and under what circumstances, can the need for public safety restrict access to the tools of self-defense?

In other words, the Declaration of Independence is no dusty old document of historical interest but irrelevant to our modern-day problems. It is as meaningful today as the day it was penned.

On each July 4, we celebrate nothing short of humanity itself.

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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I think realizing our humanity in our daily lives can be a challenge; so many people take their lives for granted, that we forget that our humanity is demonstrated in the way we relate to others. Do we reach out as good Americans are able when others are struggling? Do we encourage others when life seems dark and ugly? These are the times we can tap into our humanity and remind ourselves that we have the power to transform the lives of others in both small and consequential ways. Only in America can we do that we the ultimate preservation of freedom.

    • #1
  2. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I think realizing our humanity in our daily lives can be a challenge; so many people take their lives for granted, that we forget that our humanity is demonstrated in the way we relate to others. Do we reach out as good Americans are able when others are struggling? Do we encourage others when life seems dark and ugly? These are the times we can tap into our humanity and remind ourselves that we have the power to transform the lives of others in both small and consequential ways. Only in America can we do that we the ultimate preservation of freedom.

    I live in a retirement community, where there are lots of opportunities to practice what you recommend. I’ll try to practice your suggestions more diligently!

    • #2
  3. JAW3 Coolidge
    JAW3
    @JohnWilson

    I’ve been fascinated by the FBN series about the Revolutionary period and the general history of the times.  I never knew that the constitution was the second document after the Articles of Confederation failed.  And access the Uncommon Knowledge podcast for more fascinating commentary of those awesome times that formed our country and the great men who crafted the wondrous document we live by.  IMO.

    • #3
  4. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Take a Hillsdale College Free Online Course in Constitution 101, or The Federalist Papers, or The Presidency and the Constitution.  I never cease to be amazed at the Founders, and how they came up with the finest documents and form of government known to humanity.  Hillsdale faculty are able to show you how America came to be and how extraordinary it is, and the Founders were.

    • #4
  5. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    We sort of understand what the constitution meant for the US, but I suspect that it has meant just as much for the world.  They had to compete with a bottom up free society and that transformed them as well.  If we continue to become top down in the modern post industrial world, it will all come  to an end.  Not some brave new world well run nightmare, but the same collapse that befell every society that ever existed.  

    • #5
  6. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann
    @EugeneKriegsmann

    The Declaration was aspirational. It wasn’t speaking to how things were, but how they should be, and we, as a nation, have been growing towards those goals for our entire history. Jefferson, himself a slave holder, understood only too well that what he wrote was not how he himself actually behaved.  He knew that there were institutions in place that would fight the tide of change, and, indeed, they did even after the Civil War made them illegal.

    What set us apart from any other nation is not what we are as much as what we strive to become. The genius of our founders rests in their ability to create a framework through which a new concept of government could evolve even with the obvious imperfections of human beings. We have been evolving while our Constitution remains firm and, essentially, unchanged in its basic concepts. Without that written structure for self-governance it is unlikely that we would have grown in greatness toward an ideal. 

    Kahlil Gibran in answering the question of when man would reach perfection ends his description with saying that when man reaches perfection he will become a shadow of God’s shadow. I think it is in that same sense that our nation will, through all of its struggles, become in the end a shadow of what our founders visualized. 

    We are not now, nor have we ever been, nor are we likely to become all that we aspire to, but it is the aspiration to that goal which makes us the greatest nation that ever existed, though not yet the greatest nation that will ever exist.

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Eugene Kriegsmann (View Comment):
    Kahlil Gibran in answering the question of when man would reach perfection ends his description with saying that when man reaches perfection he will become a shadow of God’s shadow. I think it is in that same sense that our nation will, through all of its struggles, become in the end a shadow of what our founders visualized. 

    This is beautiful and so true.

    • #7
  8. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    I Walton (View Comment):

    We sort of understand what the constitution meant for the US, but I suspect that it has meant just as much for the world. They had to compete with a bottom up free society and that transformed them as well. If we continue to become top down in the modern post industrial world, it will all come to an end. Not some brave new world well run nightmare, but the same collapse that befell every society that ever existed.

     

    • #8
  9. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    Os Guinness coined the phrase “The Golden Triangle of Freedom”.   Faith   Freedom and Virtue.

    Clearly we have seen dramatic erosion in Faith and the Virtue that such faith instills in people. It seems that John Adams either foresaw or feared that this day would come at some point.

    The Golden Triangle of Freedom

     

    • #9
  10. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Rodin:

    Whoever was left out of this original formulation, it stands as a statement through which every society can be measured and judged. It stands as a reproof to slavery; it stands as a rebuke to authoritarians; it stands as an aspiration that spurs refinement in our societal norms.

    An eloquent rebuttal to the attacks of the tribalist reactionaries of the left.

    • #10
  11. JAW3 Coolidge
    JAW3
    @JohnWilson

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Take a Hillsdale College Free Online Course in Constitution 101, or The Federalist Papers, or The Presidency and the Constitution. I never cease to be amazed at the Founders, and how they came up with the finest documents and form of government known to humanity. Hillsdale faculty are able to show you how America came to be and how extraordinary it is, and the Founders were.

    The Constitution did not come about by mob rule accidentally.  Those men studied past governing types and their weaknesses to come up with a most perfect document that should be respected even more today than ever.  

    • #11
  12. Cassandro Coolidge
    Cassandro
    @Flicker

    Columbo (View Comment):

    Os Guinness coined the phrase “The Golden Triangle of Freedom”. Faith Freedom and Virtue.

    Clearly we have seen dramatic erosion in Faith and the Virtue that such faith instills in people. It seems that John Adams either foresaw or feared that this day would come at some point.

    The Golden Triangle of Freedom

    Yes, the people who decry “too much freedom” ignore the other necessary personal characteristics that make for a safe, productive and prosperous society.

    “The Framers’ Golden Triangle is this: Freedom requires virtue. Virtue requires faith of some sort. Faith of any sort requires freedom,”

    And the more of each of these, the better.

    • #12
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