“We hold these truths . . .”: Thoughts on the Fourth

One of the very best things about my birthday – something I actually look forward to each and every year, even now that the number of candles on the cake has started to look like a conflagration – is the NPR reading of the Declaration of Independence.

See, my birthday is the Fourth of July.

I don’t mind sharing my birthday with the rest of the country. Never did. How many other kids always got fireworks on their birthday?

But I think it did make the Fourth more personal for me. And, for one reason and another, I took it more seriously than a lot of kids did.

I still take it pretty seriously, to be honest.

That goes beyond having a copy of the Declaration hanging on the wall here in my office (which I do). It infuses a lot of how I see the world. And how I value our liberties, particularly the ones in the Bill of Rights.

Like Lincoln and many others, I tend to see the US Constitution through the lens of the Declaration. Not in a lawyeristic way, but rather in a historic way. Because the US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights that it contains, really only makes sense when you understand that it was written in the aftermath of a war of Independence.

Look at the complaints in the Declaration against the rule of King George, then look at the Bill of Rights. There’s a reason why our rights are specified the way they are – why the Bill of Rights lists the right to trial by jury, to free speech, to freedom from unreasonable search, to bear arms, to assembly, to be free from self-incrimination, and to not having to have troops quartered in our homes. That reason is that all these things had been denied the Colonists by England in the years leading up to Independence.

The people who wrote, and then ratified that Constitution had been through a war. Some of them had died, or had their homes and businesses seized, been imprisoned or had other liberties denied. They understood full well what was at stake, what freedom really meant, and that it had to be fought for and defended.

Sometime this weekend, I’ll take my Mortimer flintlock out for a bit of black powder shooting. It’s a nice reproduction of a post-Revolutionary War rifle, but it’s close enough for me to appreciate what it must have been like to fight with such a gun.
And the ironic thing? If I were to do that, then come home and put all my shooting gear away, and then try and fly anywhere, it’s likely that the black powder residue would send the friendly folks at the TSA security point into a tizzy.

Not that it takes much to put them into a tizzy. After all, an adult diaper on a 95 year old cancer victim will do the same thing:

The Transportation Security Administration stood by its security officers Sunday after a Florida woman complained that her cancer stricken, 95 year old mother was patted down and forced to remove her adult diaper while going through security.

* * *

While going through security, the 95 year old was taken by a TSA officer into a glassed in area, where a pat down was performed, Weber said. An agent told Weber “they felt something suspicious on (her mother’s) leg and they couldn’t determine what it was”    leading them to take her into a private, closed room.

Soon after, Weber said, a TSA agent came out and told her that her mother’s Depend undergarment was “wet and it was firm, and they couldn’t check it thoroughly.” The mother and daughter left to find a bathroom, at the TSA officer’s request, to take off the adult diaper.

I don’t blame the TSA. We’ve let them do this to us. In fact, a lot of people begged the government to do this, in the name of “security” from terrorism. Because they were afraid. We’ve become so fearful that we’re willing to watch indignities heaped upon our aging parents or inflicted on our innocent children. And why? For an illusion of safety in the form of a government flunky wearing blue gloves.

The truth of the matter is the only real safety we have is our willingness to bond together in defense of freedom, to risk all not for security, but for liberty. Countless soldiers have known this through the long years of the Republic. The passengers of Flight 93 knew this on 9/11. And those who founded this nation understood it. Otherwise, would they have closed the most famous document in the history of the human race with these words?

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of the divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

This isn’t a partisan political matter. Truth is, I don’t fit comfortably in any political party. Even if I did, I wouldn’t feel right in trying to claim the Fourth of July for partisan purposes. This is a something that is a lot more important. It’s a matter of our national identity. And whether we can shake off the fear, which has made too many willing to give up their liberty.
It’s what our Founding Fathers did.