Steve Kurlander: Americans need to rediscover the Declaration of Independence

Like every year, many patriotic editorials and articles were written July 4 holiday about the significance of the Declaration of Independence, the tremendous impact it’s had on Western civilization, and the bravery of those patriots who told the British to kiss our New World asses.

And like every other year, many centered their analysis on the preamble of the document:

“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.”

 Very few Americans read the Declaration of Independence anymore. Older Americans were made to study it in school years ago.

If citizens today did, they would not be as accepting, or clueless, about how overbearing our government has become. It’s not just its taxing power, but its surveillance and control of our speech and behavior.

The Declaration of Independence is a radical document signed by radical men. If it were read on a regular basis, the way we are being governed may be a lot different.

Take, for example, this paragraph:

 “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Those are fighting words that if published today might result in a visit from the Secret Service.  Just look at the case of Edward Snowden if you want to see radical action against government met with a harsh reaction.

Sure, we have had hints of such rebellion in today’s America, characterized by virulent rhetoric and some show of that good old-fashioned radicalism that led to the American Revolution.

We’ve seen it in both the Occupy Wall Street movement on the left and the Tea Party movement on the right. But both have been co-opted by the Democrats and GOP respectively and have lost much of their power.

But it’s not like progress isn’t being made.

This week, Congress will work on passing the USA Freedom Act to reform government surveillance and begin restricting government surveillance of its citizens.  The law will end the bulk collection of metadata on Americans, bring to an end the secretive courts that review such surveillance, and create a “special advocate” to represent the public on privacy matters.

If passed, it would be the first positive action to reign in what our forefathers would have considered a violation of personal liberties.

Whether it be on July 4th weekend or any other time, a rediscovery of the Declaration of Independence might begin a reawakening. It might provoke some radical reform such as passage of the USA Freedom Act to rein in a government that has become as autocratic as the one that ruled the colonies.

Much like Jewish people end their Passover service by saying “Next Year in Jerusalem,” we should say “Next Year in Philadelphia” next July 4.

Steven Kurlander blogs at Kurly’s Kommentary ( and writes for Context Florida and The Huffington Post and can be found on Twitter @Kurlykomments. He lives in Monticello, N.Y. Column courtesy of Context Florida. 

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