• 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, 2016

These are the times that try men’s souls. — Thomas Paine, January 1776

Six months after Thomas Paine’s Common Sense brought these words to the American public, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and 53 other founders brought forth a new nation, a nation that redefined the very meaning of government.

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.

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.


It is now 240 years later. And the wheels seem to be coming off the bus.

The Republican Party may very well be splintering apart. It is about to nominate Donald Trump as their Presidential candidate — the clear choice of Republican primary voters — even as leading Republicans lead a last-ditch effort to deny him the nomination. His economic platform is being harshly criticized by much of the Pro-Republican American business community, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives called Trump’s comments about the judge handling the lawsuit against Trump University ‘the textbook definition of a racist comment.’ Dozens of well-known Republicans —including the two living Republican past-Presidents and its 2012 nominee — aren’t attending the Party’s convention.

While less ominous, all is not good in the Democratic Party either as 63% of voters don’t trust Hillary; more even than don’t trust Trump. In a recent Gallup poll, only 51% of interviewees rated her favorably, a number made tolerable only because Trump’s favorability rating in the same poll is a dismal 42%. Meanwhile, she’s under investigation by the F.B.I. because of her decision to use her own private email server; an error in judgement that — like her Husband’s recent ‘tarmac chat’ with the Attorney General — lead many to believe that the Clinton’s believe that the rules don’t apply to them. And there’s still the open question of how many of those who ‘Feel the Bern’ will vote for Hillary in November.

In the wake of Brexit, things are no less chaotic on the other side of the Pond, where the first crack in the armor of the divine right of Kings was made 801 years ago. Boris Johnson, the Conservative leader of the Brexit movement, began backpedaling on Brexit promises almost as soon as the votes were counted. The Conservative Party appears in disarray following Prime Minister Cameron’s resignation and Johnson’s decision not to stand for PM after being sandbagged by his pro-Brexit colleague, Michael Gove. The opposition Labour Party is in no better shape with its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, losing a no-confidence vote as his extreme-leftist positions are being challenged by members of Parliament who have never favored him. The only Brexit winner seems to be Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, or UKIP, who like Trump campaigned on an anti-immigration platform.


In one of Abigail Adams’ letters to her husband John she offered some favorite lines of Shakespeare:

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.
Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat.
And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.

We the people find ourselves once again, at a tide in the affairs of men, 240 years after Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin and the other founders took that earlier tide at its flood … unleashing a revolution … that John Adams described as “the most complete, unexpected, and remarkable of any in the history of the world.”

That revolution continues, our experiment in government of the people, by the people and for the people. And the seas are rough.

Thomas Friedman summarized the challenge we face this way: It’s the story of our time: the pace of change in technology, globalization and climate have started to outrun the ability of our political systems to build the social, educational, community, workplace and political innovations needed for some citizens to keep up.

The seas are rough indeed.

And the next four months will be particularly rough as we the people head to the November elections.

Which makes this year’s Independence Day a good day to set our sails, reminding ourselves of what we must do if we are to continue to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

This Independence Day is a good day to set our compass to America’s true North: 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.

This Independence Day is a good day to remind ourselves of the sage words of Benjamin Franklin as we fought to rid ourselves of the yoke of tyranny: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

This Independence Day is a good day to remind ourselves of Judge Learned Hand’s insight that “the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interest alongside its own without bias.”

This Independence Day is a good day to remind ourselves of the love of neighbor Lincoln expressed in his first inaugural address: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”

And it’s a particularly important day to remind ourselves of Winston Churchill’s wise adage: Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried.

So today — whichever side of the enormous chasm that seems to separate us you are on — take a moment — take a deep breath — and savor the blessings of liberty — celebrate the birth of freedom — that unique moment 240 years ago when our forebears brought forth a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Because in this, we are one. E Pluribus Unum.

Let Freedom Ring.



This essay has been published on my blog The Agnostic Patriot at www.agnosticpatriot.org. I invite you to visit The Agnostic Patriot to read my other essays on freedom.

Copyright © 2016. Stan Stahl, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved. Permission is granted to republish this essay provided the essay is reproduced unedited and in its entirety, its source is identified as The Agnostic Patriot at www.agnosticpatriot.org and this copyright NOTICE is included.

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