In what he bills as a "thought experiment," Uri Friedman, the senior editor of the Atlantic Monthly, asks us to consider what the U.S. in particular and the world in general would be like today if we'd lost the American Revolution.
What if, rather than toy with a thought experiment that, for practical intents and purposes, lacks rhyme or reason, we instead examined whether we in fact have, in respects, lost the revolution.
As I pointed out in my blog post announcing the launch of the Declaration Project, a measly percentage of Americans today believe they are being governed with their stamp of approval. A paramount reason that American patriots risked their lives, fortunes and sacred honor, against bleak odds, way back when was that they believed they were being governed without their consent -- and that is precisely what most Americans believe today.
As if that weren't dejecting enough, most of my fellow Americans believe that our founding fathers and mothers would be ashamed of what we've wrought today -- the pervasive sentiment is that our democratic republic would be unrecognizable to them, and not in a good way.
What might one make of this? What does it mean? That we won the American Revolution, but that we've lost it since then, in the sense that we're no longer building on the laurels of our original patriots but allowing their grand experiment in creating an unrivaled sort of open society to unravel on our watch.
American history has shown time and again that when we need to make right something that has gone wrong in the civic sphere, we often write new declarations of independence that are modeled after and adapted from our original -- and that this often proves to be a vital first step in sparking Americans to recognize the shortcomings of public life today and reawaken the Spirit of '76 within them.
Those who practice the Spirit of '76 today do all they can to make our founders proud by wresting governance from those who are heedless of the voice of the people and devote their energies to creating a form of government that is truly of, by and for the people. This requires self-governance, constant vigilance, and a willingness to risk it all -- or at least a great deal -- to achieve a greater or higher good.
Time for a New Declaration of Independence?
On Jan. 17, 2009, three days before his inauguration, President-elect Obama said that "while our problems may be new, what is required to overcome them is not." Rather, he asserted, "What is required is the same perseverance and idealism that those first patriots displayed. What is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation but in our own lives -- from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry -- an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels" (emphasis mine).
I have written repeatedly of late to the president, especially on his personal Twitter page, asking him what this new declaration he had in mind would look like. He's been pretty responsive these days to requests from alternative "media" and such, so I'm not giving up hope that he'll reply -- and I'll keep after him.
Meanwhile, if you yourself wrote a new declaration, what would it look like? Why not take some time to consider, and then post it on our site, in the MyDeclaration section of the nonprofit Democracy Cafe's newly initiated Declaration Project?
Who knows? It might be the essential first step in galvanizing you to take action and do all you can with your talents to make our nation all it can be -- and, in the process, make sure that we continue, again and again, to win the American Revolution.