We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. 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. – Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
There’s a sentence in the Declaration of Independence that grabs me, written before the lines above brings this document to its bold conclusion. It’s the accusation that the British have been deaf to the voice of justice and consanguinity, which is both accurate and ironic. For we are an imperfect country, and if the last five years taught us anything it’s this: justice and consanguinity (the belief that we’re all kin derived from the same blood) are stories that we tell ourselves when it works in our favor.
I’m not here to beat up this country I love on her birthday. That would be unfair. We are an imperfect country, but we latched on to a bold idea that generally has steered us towards progress for the citizens of the United States, and maybe, in some ways, for the world. This idea, that all men are created equal, is still a work in progress. But it is progressing.
That bold ask, freedom and independence, continues to this day. For the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to follow were each intended to be a call for a higher standard. We are a country of laws and young traditions, based on a belief in justice and consanguinity. We’re a bit rough around the edges, we don’t always get it right, but we’re slowly progressing towards a more inclusive interpretation of that original vision.