• We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately. -Benjamin Franklin, Freedom Fighter

  • We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. -Martin Luther King, Jr., Freedom Fighter

  • Let us be cautious in making assertions and critical in examining them, but tolerant in permitting linguistic forms. -Rudolf Carnap, Philosopher

  • A clash of doctrines is not a disaster—it is an opportunity. -Alfred North Whitehead, Philosopher

  • If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Poet

  • Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. -Rumi, Mystic

  • If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. – Rene Descartes, Philosopher

  • A house divided against itself cannot stand. -Abraham Lincoln, President

  • Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. -Albert Einstein, Scientist

  • Be the change you want to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi, Freedom Fighter

Independence Day, 2009

Great oaks from tiny acorns grow.

In most of the world the sun rose on the morning of July 4, 1776 much as it had risen the day before and much as it would rise the day after. But not in Philadelphia. And not for Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, and the 52 other founders who that day were destined to change the world.

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.

The colonists stood alone among the nations of the world on that auspicious day 233 years ago. Political philosophers might have begun writing about the rights of man, but the King was secure in the knowledge that he ruled by divine right and, with both God and the army on his side, he would defeat these bloody insurrectionists, these traitors to the Crown … these traitors to His Crown.

And he nearly did defeat us. For it is one thing to assert rights, yet quite another to attain them.

While it would take us five years until we won our independence, we earned it at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-78. A short 18 miles from Independence Hall, a mere four hours by horse from the place where Congress had asserted our equality, it was at Valley Forge that we looked into the depths of a frozen Hell, a cold brutality that bore witness to the hard sacrifices that were to prove necessary if ideals were to be turned into reality.

To see Men without Clothes to cover their nakedness, without Blankets to lay on, without Shoes, by which their Marches might be traced by the Blood from their feet is a mark of Patience and obedience which in my opinion can scarce be parallel’d.

… it will not be believed that such a force as Great Britain has employed … could be baffled . . . by numbers infinitely less, composed of Men oftentimes half starved; always in Rags, without pay, and experiencing, at times, every species of distress which human nature is capable of undergoing.

General George Washington

At Valley Forge, in the cold winter of our birth, we stood up tall and the American character emerged. At Valley Forge, our charge became not just a revolution for independence but a revolution for nationhood … a nation of free men … an experiment in self-government … our experiment. A tiny acorn had taken root and the world was forever changed.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

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.

 

One by one, they began to be abolished, these governments that were not of the people, by the people and for the people. First to fall was France where, 13 years after our own revolution, the divine rights of the King were swept away in the orgy of blood that was the French Revolution. That mankind has rights—a moral principle conceived in England in the work of Hobbes, Locke and the other political philosophers, a moral principle given birth in the American Revolution—this truth which we hold to be self-evident had gone back across the Atlantic to France and taken root in Europe.

 

The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.
Martin Luther King

It was several months after that fateful July day that a ship arrived in England, and Europe began to learn what the founders had done in Philadelphia. News travelled slowly and most of the world took little note of our Declaration of Independence.

How the world has changed. Today, 233 years after the revolution, news finds its way across the globe showing up almost instantaneously in virtual places like Twitter and Facebook and YouTube. And today, 233 years later, with a Universal Declaration of Human Rights embodied in the United Nations, the world takes notice.

The Iranian government may have crushed opposition to its fraudulent election results but the truth got out and the world took notice. And the flame of freedom still burns.

Its own Army may have staged an illegal coup against Honduras’ elected President but the truth got out and the world took notice. And the flame of freedom still burns.

North Korea, Myanmar, Zimbabwe and the other tyrannies that still live on this planet, they are a dying breed, doomed to extinction. They cannot snuff out the flame of freedom that burns in the hearts of their people; a flame that is kept burning by freedom-loving people everywhere. Dictators can no longer keep the truth from their people and the world, and they can’t keep our hearts from connecting. In the internet age, the censor loses … the people win.

We cannot expect that freedom will come easily to the parts of the world where it has not yet spread. Power rarely just goes away. Just as at Valley Forge, we must be prepared for the sacrifices that may lie ahead. But make no mistake about it, freedom shall prevail.

In the 233 years since that wonderful day in Philadelphia, this truth which we hold to be self-evident –that all men are created equal—has spread across the planet. That it sprouted first in 1776 in Philadelphia is perhaps an accident of history; a truth this deep was bound to germinate somewhere at some time.

But that it did sprout first on this day 233 years ago … July 4, 1776 … in Philadelphia and that we, the people, have lived it as our defining creed ever since—in this, we, the people, can all take great pride

And in our pride, let us rededicate ourselves to living its meaning—treating every one we meet—friend and foe alike—from that place in our heart where lives this self-evident truth—that all men are created equal—so that by our actions we may secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, [let us] mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Happy Birthday America.

Let freedom ring.

Copyright © 2009. Stan Stahl. All Rights Reserved. Permission is granted to republish this essay in its entirety provided its source is identified asThe Agnostic Patriot at www.agnosticpatriot.org and this copyright is included.

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Comments

  1. Stan,
    In the five or six years I have known you, I have read many of your published essays. I remember my response to the very first you sent me. As one who is a devoted reader of American History, particularly presidents and others who have shaped the growth of our political and moral conscience over the years, I salute you again. For anyone who lives and breathes the complex legal,moral and complex issues of our day, and begins to question who we are, I might suggest the following. Return to this site, randomly pick any essay, have a cup of tea, glass of wine, or whatever comforts you in a quiet moment, and read it. Whether you agree, disagree, or question the content, you will take pause to think. That is Stan’s gift to you.

  2. Well, you had me in tears of appreciation.
    Great job, Stan!

    The site is so beautiful visually, too.

  3. Very, very cool, Stan. It is always a pleasure to wake up on a holiday to read your essays. They are thought-provoking, and remind us to be grateful while inspiring us to to be more altruistic for our common good. For these reasons, I share them with others. Happy Independence Day, to you and yours.

  4. Stan, Thank you for sharing your soul, belief, faith and life. I am so proud to have met you in person. Happy July 4th Sir.

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