BY DAVID PERRYMAN
The 242ndAnniversary of the Declaration of Independence came and went earlier this month. We all celebrate what we refer to as the “birth of our country” in a variety of ways. What none of us do is take that Declaration as seriously as did the 56 signers who literally risked their lives and their livelihood by placing their signatures on the bottom of the document.
Once again, I beseech you to take the time to read and mediate on what these men said and who they were saying it to.
Contrary to popular belief, the Declaration of Independence was not addressed to King George III, who was the ruling monarch of Great Britain at the time. Neither was it addressed to Lord Frederick North, the 2ndEarl of Guilford, who served as Prime Minister and led Great Britain through most of the American War of Independence.
The Declaration of Independence was not even addressed to Parliament. The colonists had passed that milepost long before July 4, 1776. These patriots boldly declared the new nation’s independence, and the basis upon which that independence was necessary, to what they referred to as “a candid world.” In 21stCentury English, the recipients would have likely been termed as “an unbiased world” as the purpose of the document was to convey to the world justifications for their action.
We cannot overemphasize how dangerous the act of signing was. After all, these men were not impoverished. Many of them had become wealthy under the current system and were prosperous. They were lawyers and merchants, physicians and farmers, and at least one printer/scientist by the name of Benjamin Franklin.
Why would 56 men put themselves and their possessions and their families at risk when they were so comfortable in their homes and possessions?
I believe that the answer to that question can be found in the closing words of the document itself. These men believed so strongly in the future of a better life for their neighbors and their children’s neighbors that they took quill in hand and executed a document that we today proudly proclaim as ourDeclaration of Independence.
These men placed their trust in each other and placed the hopes and dreams of their neighbors above their own self-interest. In closing, they wrote, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
Today, our country and our state is divided to the core. Too many of us claim to adhere to the same aspirations as these 56 men. How honest is that claim? How long has it been since we as citizens were willing to “pledge to each other” our Lives? Our Fortunes? Our Sacred Honor?
Instead, we allow 24-hour news stations, on both the right and the left, to feed us full of fear and hate and division. In a land of opportunity, we burden young men and women with unsustainable college debt. In a land of equality, our economic system promotes wage inequality. In a land of scientific advancement, the quality of health care [or even its availability] depends on an individual’s financial status.
One can only wonder if those men who signed the Declaration of Independence would have done so if they had been able to foresee the division and disconnect that has become the norm in Oklahoma and our country.
A good starting point would be to renew our “pledge to each other.”
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House