The second paragraph reads like this: “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.” We may have learned it as a kid but now as an adult we rarely think about it except when we get into arguments with our friends or enemies over politics.
The words come down to us from a hot summers day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The folks that signed our Declaration of Independence never signed it in a group and they gathered only briefly to review it. The document was drafted by the Committee of 5: John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert R. Livingston, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. They also did not stay together for a long period for the British would happily have hung them for they were traitors against England and the Crown.
The above document creates for us a life of striving for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Declaration of Independence is specific on life and liberty but the pursuit of happiness is just that, pursuit. We can chase all we want but the chase guarantees nothing but the chase. We in many ways are left to create our life and our liberty ourselves.
Almost all wars are started by a combination of misunderstandings and miscommunication. Add in a few folks that have preconceived ideas about (you may fill in the blank here) and before long things “escalate.” On the bright spring morning of April 19, 1775, the British Army and the Militia of the hamlet of Lexington stood at cross purposes.
The British were going to Concord to confiscate weapons, supplies and food stocks that were being stored to be used against them if the need occurred. The Americans (still British citizens and many were loyal to Britain) formed on the green to impress the British that they would fight if needed but also wanted to convey a warning to their British cousins; they were serious about securing their rights.
On the green stood 77 militia men and 700 British regular troops. Who fired the first shot will never be known; after an exchange of gunfire eight militiamen were killed and nine wounded — only one Redcoat was injured. The British then proceeded to move on to Concord to complete their mission. Having found nothing of great substance the British returned to Boston, a distance of 18 miles, with 3,500 militiamen attacking them. As in later wars, the body count was about 250 Redcoats verses 100 militiamen killed or wounded. A ratio of 2.5 to 1. Very acceptable, one could argue, in military calculations.
Our revolution broke down to 33% supporting independence, 33% supporting staying with Britain and 33% not giving two hoots in a skunks hollow as long as they were left alone. Not a great base to start a war on. Not a great base to start a revolution on and not a great base to see us through the years that followed.
As we review our wars on the “good” side we include The Revolutionary War, the Civil War WWI and WWII. On the “bad” side we include the War of 1812, Korea, Vietnam and our ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sometimes we get in over our heads. We refuse to admit it and then old men send young men off to war.
As a Fourth of July reminder before we go off to war with Iran, perhaps we should have all the facts first. Saddam Hussein did not have nuclear weapons. The people who attacked the World Trade Center on 9-11 were citizens of Saudi Arabia. It is clear now from history the Lusitania, the ship torpedoed by the Germans that started WWI, probably had weapons on it.
As to our old enemies the British, history has shown them to be our staunchest friend and ally. On this Fourth of July we celebrate our independence. Yet we refuse to acknowledge that we are a nation built of slaves and immigrants. Unless you are a Native American we all came from someplace else. Let’s remember that on July 4 and the other 364 days of the year.