Vail Daily editorial: Let’s celebrate — and remember
Saturday marks the 239th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, one of the most audacious acts of the time, and a feat that remains remarkable even at this remove.
It’s worth noting just about every year that the men who signed the Declaration didn’t do this as some sort of well-intentioned but ultimately futile hashtag campaign. The signers knew the moment they put pen to paper they’d committed high treason against the world’s biggest colonial power, a power that had the military might to back up whatever edicts King George III and Parliament chose to impose.
Everyone who signed that piece of parchment knew the hangman’s noose awaited if this bold move should fail — which it very nearly did, several times. Many of the signers lost everything in the revolution to come. Many didn’t survive to see George Washington’s triumph at Yorktown five long years later.
All that toil, all that sacrifice, all that internal struggle among a people far from united in the cause deserves to be celebrated every year with fireworks, barbecues and, yes, a few moments’ reflection on how we got here.
That reflection is important, friends, because keeping this long-running experiment in a constitutional republic takes a lot of effort, something many of us seem to regularly forget.
It’s worrisome when local government officials are encouraged to ignore Supreme Court rulings that don’t jibe with those officials’ personal beliefs. And critics have complained about presidents creating an “imperial presidency” dating back nearly to Washington’s time.
That’s not what our republic is supposed to be about. We’re supposed to be a nation of law, not personal whim. We ignore that fact at out peril. Remember, “Idiocracy,” the 2006 Mike Judge film about a nation ruled by the moronic mob, was supposed to be a cautionary tale, not a guide.
So celebrate our freedom today. But let’s also never forget Benjamin Franklin’s words at the constitutional convention of 1787. When asked by a woman whether the group inside Philadelphia’s Independence Hall had created a monarchy or a republic, Franklin is said to have replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Please, let’s keep working on that.
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