Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day...and Our Founding Fathers

It's here, once again.  July 4, 2011, the 235th anniversary of our founding fathers signing the quintessential birth certificate.  July 4, 1776 is the day we officially recognize as our place in history - our birth.  The day that we thumbed our noses at rule by the British and King George.  Unfortunately, it's something that, I fear, is not being taught to our children in the most significant terms.  They know the day to be 'Independence Day' but do they really know what was fought and won with the signing of this historic document?  I remember, once, in a scene from the movie, "With Honors," that Joe Pesci played the part of a bum and found himself in a law class.  The exchange between he and the professor caught my attention and was something that I thought explained, in detail, what was so important and brilliant about our forefathers and the documents they authored that we revere to this day.  These great men, the ones we applaud annually for giving us a system of government that has served us well, were nothing more than ordinary citizens.  Ordinary citizens with a foresight that is unparalleled.  The brilliance of this was caught in the exchange in the movie when the professor asked , "What is the particular 'genius' of the Constitution?"  Joe Pesci was playing the part of Simon Wilder, the bum, and this was the exchange:

Simon Wilder:  You asked a question, sir.  Let me answer it.  The genius of the constitution is that it can always be changed. The genius of the constitution is that it makes no permanent rule other than its faith in the wisdom of ordinary people to govern themselves. 

Mr. Picannon:  The faith in the wisdom of ordinary people is exactly what makes the Constitution incomplete and crude. 

Simon Wilder:  Crude? No, sir. Our founding parents were pompous middle-aged white farmers, but they were also great men, because they knew one thing that all great men should know; that they didn't know everything. They knew they were going to make mistakes, but they made sure to leave a way to correct them. They didn't think of themselves as leaders. They wanted a government of citizens, not royalty. A government of listeners, not lecturers. A government that could change, not stand still. The president isn't an elected king, no matter how many bombs he can drop, because the crude Constitution doesn't trust him. He's a servant of the people. He's a bum. Ok, Mr. Picannon? He's just a bum.  The only bliss that he's searching for is freedom and justice.

That exchange has always stuck with me for some reason.  I believe the writer was incredibly insightful and absolutely poetic.  Our Founding Fathers had the wisdom to know that, in this world of ever-changing circumstances, there needed to be 'an escape clause'.  There needed to be a way to correct that which was done in error.  In my humble opinion, it was simply brilliant.  These little pieces of paper, housed in Washington, DC, are the framework for the youngest, yet most civilized, of countries, and were written by farmers.  Men that, over 200 years ago, knew we'd face different issues than they and, in order to keep this most perfect of Unions, would have to have a method of handling those issues.  THAT, in my opinion, is what our kids need to know.  We need to make sure they, too, can think this far into the future and see that their actions must stave off the types of civil wars and unrest in other countries.  We are charging them with keeping these documents, and their ideals, alive long after we are gone.

Along those lines, we need to celebrate these things.  We need to continue to fly our flag, have parades, and set off fireworks every year.  I cannot recall if it was Jefferson or Adams that said, after the document was drafted and they returned home, that we'd have something that would be celebrated every year with fireworks, parades, and festivals.  I know some of you might get irritated that neighbors are setting off fireworks.  I have friends that have heard their neighbors ask, "Are you finished yet??"  My suggestion to everyone, everywhere, is to take a few minutes as you watch these fireworks head toward the sky and give a resounding,"Boom!" before exploding magically into various shapes and colors, and think of this country.  Think of the way we live compared to other countries we see on the news every day.  Imagine what a risk our great-great-great-great grandparents took when they told the ruling body, "Yeah, um, thanks...but we can handle it from here."  The sound of those fireworks?  Yeah, that's the sound of letting freedom ring.  Lighten up...and enjoy it a bit....

Until next time......

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