Monday, July 04, 2005

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness ... "

And with these and the remainder of the brief but eloquent Declaration of Independence, the United States of America began on July 4, 1776.

But there were no fireworks.

The founders had no government. Limited popular support. No historical precedent for the radical step they had just taken. No chance of avoiding the consequences for their treason against the crown.

But they did have something. They had a war on their hands. Indeed, they had declared war on the world’s greatest power.

Seven years later, the Americans miraculously had outlasted the British Army, and the independence declared on July 4, 1776 was won. Many credited Divine Providence for the victory, for it was so spectacular and miraculous as to defy human explanation.

After all, it was greater than any Hollywood script. The founders' triumph was both the political lunar landing and the greatest military upset in history, all rolled into one. The American Revolution sent shock waves through the world that still reverberate in places Kiev, Beirut, and yes, in Kabul and Baghdad, too. And more waves are on the way.

For now, history has a precedent that human freedom can overcome all odds to establish a home for the free and the brave.

They made the history that the world views with awe. It's hard for those of us who have grown up in this Wonderland called America to recall that America wasn't always a superpower, let alone the world's lone superpower. Indeed, this whole experiment got kicked off by America sticking its finger in the eye of what was then the world's superpower.

The optimism, braggadocio, and confident spirit of America traces its roots to her daring founders. For they had the foresight to realize the value of freedom, and also the guts to fight for it. If you read the case they laid out in the Declaration, they seemed to be arguing that life simply wasn't worth living if it wasn't lived in freedom. Indeed, they spoke of a "necessity" and a "duty" to fight for liberty.

Without the willingness to fight for freedom, they realized, we won’t have it. They showed us the way.

The founders paid dearly, too, with their property, their own physical liberty, their families, and even their own lives. But they persevered. They didn't whine, falter, or quit when the inevitable, bloody fight with Britain came.

They knew it would come to this. They knew the tough days ahead would require more than they could give. And they would give their all.

Consider that they finished the Declaration with these words: "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."

They would need all that they had pledged and relied upon to make it through the difficult days ahead.

We need to remember their examples on this day ... and every day.