Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent– Most Americans today view Independence Day as another holiday with fireworks and barbequing in the backyard or local park, or waterskiing at the lake or perhaps participating in a hometown parade. The actual document or proclamation of the Declaration of Independence is not likely to be reading material in celebrations today, even though it is readily available online as well as in pamphlets, booklets and other sources.
It was read more intensely when it was distributed by patriots riding on horseback over 200 years ago. The document was carried throughout the colonies so the people at the time could be made aware of what the Declaration said and meant. An original signer of the Declaration, John Hancock, wanted people to be universally informed, and Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration, called it “an expression of the American Mind.”
What Jefferson said about the American mindset would likely not apply to contemporary Americans and leaders today. Jefferson’s thoughts and ideas would be lost on those today as his view of government was one of it as a threat to liberty that would require eternal vigilance to keep the government in check.
The significance of the Declaration has dwindled because Americans have failed to digest and understand the words in it, and like other founding documents its true meaning and even its existence has been removed from history classes at many levels. Its message has been lost in the shuffle of politics and the philosophy of the bureaucracy, which has won out over universal principles.
Few people access the Declaration on their own, or take the time to read the words and content that the 56 original signers pledged to protect with their lives, fortunes and sacred honor. Their strong words did not leave out the fact that there would be hazards with independence, like sacrifice, loss, long-suffering and patience, and those kinds of risks are what a number of Americans today are unwilling to endure, even for the sake of independence.
The Declaration has lost its significance because of the unwillingness of large sections of the American population to understand how the principles within the document were meant to be pursued through continual diligence and efforts to uphold them. Many Americans have become apathetic towards the principles and allowed the government to override their rights.
The document’s purpose was to secure the rights of the people and that government was to derive its power through those same people-“the consent of the governed.” If the rights of the people are betrayed, then they can change or abolish the government.
Americans today want the equality that is set out in the Declaration in “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” but they don’t want to do the hard work to make it real in their own lives and the lives of others because of their own limitations and what the government overreach has done to restrain individual liberty and equality.
Independence and equality require commitment and Americans need to understand that the Declaration has lost significance because of their lack of appreciation for both the document and the founders that laid the groundwork for citizens to pursue their unalienable rights.
The steps or principles are in place for citizens to follow. It is the doing that is the hard part, and no one doubts that the path can be extremely difficult, but there are those citizens who are doing their level best to follow the examples, while others would rather start another revolution to break down, reinterpret and abolish the principles to advance their liberal and socialist views of today’s America.
The Declaration of Independence must become increasingly more significant than it once was for many Americans to see the light and gain the same kind of strength and moral fiber that the founders possessed. It’s all in making the commitment to understanding the Declaration, adhering to it and remembering that the sacrifices of patriots made it all possible for them in the first place.
Owatonna, MN Correspondent– The significance of any historical document that has stood the test of time rises and falls in a more or less parabolic shape. At first, a document may seem momentous, but its effect on history can’t be known until years or decades later. If the colonist’s rebellion against British tyranny had been suppressed as quickly as the US quashed Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991, then the Declaration of Independence would have become a minor footnote in Great Britain’s long and checkered history.
But the colonists prevailed, which elevated the DI to one of the great historical documents of all time. Still, in those early days, no one was quite sure what the document’s effect on history would become. America was still a tiny nation that wouldn’t achieve its dominant position in the world for more than 150 years. The initial spike of significance after the Revolutionary War ebbed as we struggled to maintain our new nation.
As the US grew and its future became more secure, the historical significance of the DI rose because more and more emerging nations used it and our Constitution as models when they formed their own democratic governments. But even as other parts of the world embraced the DI and what it stands for, it seems to have lessened in significance in the United States.
America no longer celebrates Independence Day by reflecting on the values, bravery, and farsightedness that our founders encapsulated in the Declaration of Independence as they dared to break away from tyranny. Our politicians pay lip service to its ideals and twist its meanings to suit their political agendas. The rest of us simply use that holiday to mindlessly drink beer and overeat, watch fireworks that seem only to stand in for television and movie entertainment, and wave American flags as we watch parades go by. The parabolic significance of the DI peaked somewhere around the end of World War II and has gradually slid downward since then, although it has not yet reached its nadir. We still have a few decades to go.
Gastonia, NC Correspondent– Where many people err is in believing that the Declaration of Independence is a governing document. It’s a statement, a broadside aimed at King George and his henchmen telling them that the Colonies were no longer colonies, and that we would govern ourselves henceforth, thank you very much and enjoy your tea.
It is a stirring thing to read, but it’s not much on laying out a system of government that will lead to creating the most powerful, most free, most amazing nation on earth. That’s left to the Constitution, which as of this writing is the oldest still-in-use governing document on the planet. The Constitution is indeed endangered, with forces on both the left and right seeking to subvert, suborn and alter its wording and scope to their own designs.
The Declaration of Independence will always and forever have significance. Without it, our country would have never been born. The issue is that those who secretly wish the U.S. didn’t exist have done their best to muddy the waters and obscure the naked heroism of the men who put their names on the document, staking “our lives, our fortune and our sacred honor” in beginning the grand experiment that became the United States.
We must be vigilant in our education of our young people, and watchful of those who set the curricula and write the books, that the Declaration’s significance never be forgotten or minimized.
And while we’re at it, let’s get back to making sure every middle school kid can recite at the very least the Preamble to the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Knowledge is power, and depriving someone of knowledge is taking that power away. It’s a technique used by despots all over the world.