Today I clicked on the “I feel lucky” link on Google.com. This led me to trending topics, which led me to read the Declaration of Independence. Which, other than what I might have read in school a million years ago, I can’t say I have looked at any time recently.
I have a friend, Dave (I don’t usually list names, but why not give him credit for a great idea), who reads the Declaration on July 4th. Since I stumbled onto it today I think is a good tradition to start. I always feel guilty when I hear about people becoming citizens and I know I probably wouldn’t remember enough to pass to citizenship test.
Why aren’t we more familiar with historic documents? Probably because the paragraphs are dense, and all of those commas make it scary. I’ve been reading a book called the War Against Grammar by David Mulroy. In his book, he says that students do not understand the first paragraph of the Declaration which is the following:
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.
Mulroy asked students to paraphrase this paragraph and most did not get the point which is basically saying the colonists were expressing the idea that if they wanted to separate from England they should not do so without first making a list of reasons of why they want to separate. Then the colonists go on to list close to 30 reasons why they are declaring themselves independent.
As I read the list, I imagined these leaders sitting in a room and coming up with the list of their grievances. I made me think of when I’ve had grievances. Have I stopped to really think about them and decide if I should free myself from whatever was bothering? Did I declare “the causes which impelled me to want separation” to the other party?
As the colonists state in the second paragraph of the Declaration, we shouldn’t separate for light and transient causes. So while we may feel slighted, we should stop to consider if whatever is upsetting us will still be an issue in a day, a week…a year? And is separating really the best answer? Maybe something is crappy and hard but is it worth enduring because it is a good cause in the grand scheme of things.
I also thought about how exhilarated they must have felt putting the finishing touches on the document—declaring themselves free and starting to make their new plans. If we think something through and decide it’s best to move on, it can be scary, but it’s also exciting embarking on something new and not knowing what to expect, right?
These are just some thoughts I had while reading the Declaration of Independence.