Members of Grace,
You may be reading this before the day arrives, but no matter where we live, Independence Day 2020, will be different from any other. July 4th is the true midpoint of the year, the start of high summer, perhaps the most American of our holidays, a celebration of our Founders’ boldness and bravery in that steamy Philadelphia summer of 1776, when they adopted – unanimously – the Declaration of Independence.
(from the preamble) When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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 affect 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.
This document presented to a curious world the best case ever made for humanity’s inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is our nations’ birth certificate. John Adams, 2nd President of the U.S., said “mark Independence Day with Pomp and Parade, with Shows, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations.” As a nation, we’ve been doing that since 1777. This year? From Bourne, Massachusetts to Akron, Ohio to Coronado, California the skies will be dark – no fireworks. Canceled are countless parades, concerts, festivals – even Lumberjack Days in Minnesota. How do we celebrate our independence in the midst of a national trauma? How do we bring new life into this text, and commit ourselves again to these timeless truths? We hold these truths to be self-evident… that all people are created equal… endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
COVID-19. Racial prejudice and inequality. The senseless death and loss of our dear Jill. The weight of such sufferable wrongs bears down upon us and can ‘bend us’ into ourselves, disregarding others. Yet we are created not just for ourselves, but for the good of the other – for the whole of humanity. This year is the perfect opportunity – creating safety by staying at home and restraining social behaviors – to be mindful not just of our benefits and freedoms, but to honor the freedoms and benefits of all.
May our self-restraint, our openness to all, and our resolve to declare what the Declaration says, be our gift to the nation this year.