Celebrate the Fourth of July: Read the Declaration of Independence

July 3, 2014

With the Fourth of July just around the corner, the savory smell of a barbecue blurring the lines between smoke and heat wave peaks excitement across the nation. The flags we wave perform as dazzling emblems of liberty and the fireworks we spark respond to John Adams’ requests for independence. But how far have we come in expanding upon and embodying the ideals of our Founding Fathers? Have we embodied and continued their work or merely paid homage through red, white and blue decor?

This year’s 238th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence is accompanied by an array of disappointments, beginning with- but not limited to- Princeton’s recent study claiming our nation should be classified as an oligarchy as opposed to a democracy. Gaps in income disparity have triggered apathy and hopelessness for those living outside of the economic elite – and have disillusioned voters into believing their civic participation is trivial.

The 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act on July 2nd, additionally, coexists with a mushroom cloud of institutional racism that we are still dealing with as a country. These instances have gone on to act as excuses for our limited civic engagement, despite the fact that we are still waving our flags on Independence Day.

More than anything, this contrast should energize us into working toward our full unique potential. A potential that only has the strings it does today because of the thread our founding fathers have distributed when drafting the underpinnings of the greatest democracy in world history. The foundations of pluralism in respect to “the unalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” have been devalued in the midst of fleeting chaos – endangering us not so much by its blatant injustice, but by derailing the vision that this nation was founded upon. 

If we have the potential to unify in reverence for our country’s foundations, then we have the potential to sustain our country’s foundations. Patriotism is about defending the values of our country, and among those values is civic responsibility. “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” is engraved in the Declaration of Independence to rattle our conscience and constantly reinvigorate the spirit of our democracy. When we do not possess that consciousness, we put our Founding Fathers’ gift to waste.

Amid the barbeques and fireworks we are all sure to take part in tomorrow, let this be a clarion call to reinvigorate our democratic spirit and actually read and understand the Declaration of Independence and embody its essence to become true patriots. 

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