Re­spon­si­bil­ity and free­dom

The Covington News - - OPINION - JACKIE CUSH­MAN COLUM­NIST To find out more about Jackie Gin­grich Cush­man and read fea­tures by other Cre­ators Syn­di­cate writ­ers, visit www.cre­ators.com.

We de­clared our in­de­pen­dence from Great Bri­tain 238 years ago this week. It was a dec­la­ra­tion long in com­ing, brought about by the over­reach­ing rule of King Ge­orge III and Bri­tain’s in­sis­tence on taxation with­out rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

The taxation be­gan in the 1760s, the Bos­ton Mas­sacre oc­curred in 1770, the Bos­ton Tea Party in 1993 and the Bat­tles of Lex­ing­ton and Con­cord in April of 1775.

Patrick Henry’s call to ac­tion, “Give me lib­erty or give me death,” was the first strong pub­lic state­ment that, if we were to be free, if we were to have lib­erty, then we would have to fight Bri­tain. Prior to Henry’s speech to the gath­er­ing of Vir­ginia del­e­gates in Richmond, the pre­vail­ing be­lief was that we could ne­go­ti­ate with Bri­tain.

Henry laid down the gaunt­let and clearly pre­sented his un­der­stand­ing of what we were fac­ing.

Our choice was lib­erty or death.

Our founders chose to take the chal­lenge and de­clared our In­de­pen­dence from Bri­tain on July 4, 1776.

Our Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence is a three­part doc­u­ment: the first a dec­la­ra­tion of free­dom, in­clud­ing our un­der­stand­ing of the nat­u­ral or­der of author­ity and power; the sec­ond a long list of grievances, re­in­forc­ing the be­lief that there was no choice but to de­clare our in­de­pen­dence as a free coun­try; the third an ac­knowl­edg­ment of risk and the oath of the sign­ers to one an­other.

The first sec­tion is the one that is most of­ten quoted: “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.”

The sec­ond part, less of­ten ref­er­enced, lays out the rea­son­ing for why we were seek­ing in­de­pen­dence, a rea­son­ing that in­cluded a long list of grievances against King Ge­orge III.

Our founders con­cluded the doc­u­ment with the pledge to each other and an in­vo­ca­tion of God. Know­ing that their dec­la­ra­tion would be seen as an act of trea­son by the king, the sign­ers also knew that, if they were not suc­cess­ful, they would risk los­ing their lives.

This doc­u­ment de­clared us free, out­lined the foun­da­tional un­der­stand­ing of our rights, from whom they came and our re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to main­tain them.

Ac­cord­ing to a Gallup poll re­leased this week, “the per­cent­age of Amer­i­cans dis­sat­is­fied with the free­dom to choose what they do with their lives more than dou­bled, from 9 per­cent to 21 per­cent.” (Face-to-face and tele­phone in­ter­views with ap­prox­i­mately 1,000 adults per coun­try, sam­pling er­ror ranges from plus/ mi­nus 1.7 per­cent­age points to plus/mi­nus 5.6 per­cent­age points.) The same re­lease from Gallup spec­u­lated that, “the de­cline in per­ceived free­dom among Amer­i­cans could be at­trib­uted to the U.S. econ­omy.”

It also spec­u­lated that, “an­other pos­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion for the de­cline in free­dom is how Amer­i­cans feel about their gov­ern- ment.” Gallup noted that 79 per­cent of Amer­i­cans be­lieve that “cor­rup­tion is wide­spread through­out the govern­ment.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, “Amer­i­cans’ con­fi­dence in all three branches of the U.S. govern­ment has fallen, reach­ing record lows for the Supreme Court (30 per­cent) and Congress (7 per­cent), and a six-year low for the pres­i­dency (29 per­cent),” based on an­other Gallup poll (con­ducted June 5-8, sam­ple of 1,027, plus/mi­nus 4 points).

The in­tro­duc­tion of our Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence pro­vides for re­course if govern­ment be­comes de­struc­tive to in­di­vid­ual rights, “to al­ter or to abol­ish it,” mean­ing the govern­ment.

As Amer­i­cans in­creas­ingly be­lieve that our govern­ment is cor­rupt and can­not be trusted, our re­spon­si­bil­ity, based on our Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence, to al­ter our govern­ment be­comes more clear and more com­pelling.

Just as our found­ing fa­thers fought for our free­dom more than 200 years ago, so must we con­tinue to fight to en­sure that our govern­ment re­mains ours and our free­doms re­main in­tact.

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