4th of July – Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness are the 7 most famous words in the Declaration of Independence which marks its 237th anniversary today, July 4, 2013.

Back in the late eighteenth century, with the Revolutionary War still fresh in their minds, Americans celebrating the 4th of July were directly connected to the Declaration of Independence and how it changed their lives.

237 years later, if we’re lucky and have the holiday off, we spend the 4th of July with friends and family at the beach, a park, or in our backyards. American flags fly everywhere, millions of hot dogs are consumed, and fireworks light up the evening sky. We are far, far away from the events that led up to the freedoms we enjoy today.

In honor of the 4th of July, I decided to reintroduce myself to the Declaration of Independence.

Declaration of Independence of 1776

The Declaration of Independence explains why the American colonies declared independence from Great Britain, catalogs injustices committed by King George III, and tells how the colonists attempted to obtain redress of these grievances.

Declaration of Independence (stone engraving)The first sentence sets the stage.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

The beginning of the 2nd paragraph defines the very essence of what it means to be an American.

“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 paragraph continues with the right of the people to alter or abolish the government and institute a new one, as well as the difficulty of doing so.

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

The main body of the Declaration contains a long list of grievances against King George III including his refusal to pass laws for the public good, obstructing justice, imposing taxes without consent of the people, cutting off trade, and suspending the legislature. Below that section, the colonists tell of the lack of support they received from “their British brethren.”

After declaring the United States of America free and absolved from allegiance to the British Crown the document closes with a commitment by our forefathers.

“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.”

Freedom and Responsibility

The Declaration of Independence ties us to the people who took a stand in 1776 against tyranny and injustice and fought with their pens and their lives for freedom. They fought for the people of their time and ours.

Wall Street with American FlagsToday, the tyrant is not a single all-powerful ruler, it is a multi-headed beast made up of corporations that place quarterly profits over the wellbeing of people and the planet. Our government seems to stand on the sidelines as the land, air, and water are polluted, natural resources are gobbled up, and the people with the least chance of fighting back suffer the most.

I believe freedom and responsibility go hand-in-hand. It’s up to us now. We need to ensure future Americans and people around the world have a habitable planet to live on and the opportunity for Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

We need to declare our independence from corporate greed and a disinterested government. I propose a new Declaration of Independence for the modern world and the addition of a 4th unalienable right.

Declaration of Independence of 2013

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve corporations and laws that enable special interests to control our government and destroy our planet, we should declare the causes.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, the pursuit of Happiness, and a Habitable Planet.

We are not disposed to suffer evils any longer and require corporations and our government to change and serve the greater good or face extinction. We submit these reasons.

  • Corporations are allowed to pollute our land, air, and water.
  • Corporations make and sell products that harm people and the planet.
  • Corporations enable the wealthy few to become wealthier at our expense.
  • Corporations waste Earth’s resources and generate mountains of trash.
  • Corporations spend millions of dollars to finance political campaigns and elect politicians that will serve their interests, not ours.

We have appealed to our government to seek redress for our grievances but the government continues to allow these injustices to occur and in some cases actually abets them.

We mutually pledge to current and future Americans and other citizens of the world, that we’re not going to take it anymore. We will use the freedom hard won by our nation’s founders to fight our oppressors with our actions, our voices, our smartphones, our wallets, and hopefully not our lives.

Forward on Climate Rally in Washington, D.C. on 02/17/13 - Photo by Shadia Fayne Wood
Forward on Climate Rally in Washington, D.C. on 02/17/13 – Photo by Shadia Fayne Wood

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A few of the organizations working towards a habitable planet include:

Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same.

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