That might seem like a superfluous question. But just take a moment and watch this video of Americans in this generation that don't have a clue! You might think it is a humorous display of how little Americans know about our history, or why we celebrate the 4th of July, but I find it extremely disturbing.
But it is more than just a date in the founding of our nation. It symbolizes, for the first time, that leaders of men recognized that "Nature's God" had given all men certain rights that could not be usurped by tyrannical governments. Specifically, it says, 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 ...
And, yes, I recognize that this seems hypocritical in light of the fact that many of the Southern Founding Fathers were slaveholders. The writings of the Founding Fathers show that many of them acknowledged that slavery violated the natural rights of the enslaved, but knew that the abolition of this abhorrent practice would need to take a back seat (for the time being) to the larger goal of securing the unity and independence of the United States from Britain. Sadly, they "kicked the can down the road" to be dealt with by a future generation; although the reality is that the freedom of the nation needed to come before they could address the freedom of the slaves. That issue would be dealt with in a mere 84 years when the new nation was ripped asunder by the Civil War.
So, what exactly was meant by "unalienable rights"? As I wrote in a February 9, 2013 post, I would venture to say that most Americans have a distorted idea of what "unalienable" means. I would further conclude that they think it takes its meaning from the word "alien", signifying that these "unalienable" rights were unfamiliar or foreign to men of that time. That is a wrong interpretation, and we actually mispronounce the word altogether. In 1776, when the Declaration was written, this word was not pronounced as un-alien-able; the correct enunciation was un-a-lien-able, as in "a lien", a form of security interest granted over an item of property to secure the payment of a debt. For instance, the bank holds a lien against your car, until the note is paid off.
What the Founding Fathers were actually saying was this: the natural rights that have been given to us by God are not subject to a lien by any king or ruler; they are ours to possess outright. In other words, our rights are not determined by governments; or granted by them; and cannot be legislated by them. It was the first time in the history of the world, that a nation of people dared to declare that they recognized God's rulership and authority as being above that of any monarch or crowned head.
This was an important step in the evolution of a nation and of mankind. The Founders of our nation were declaring that they were ready to live their lives as free men, unencumbered by the heavy hand of an oppressive authority; that they wanted to live their lives according to the "Laws of Nature", which in the 18th century meant certain fundamental principles or moral standards that were apparent to everyone. This thought was perhaps best expressed by English philosopher John Locke, in his Second Treatise on Government: "The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but to have only the law of nature for his rule." These laws of nature were understood to be that which the God of the Universe had instituted when He created man in His image.
Those same fundamental principles and moral standards are still in place in nature; and the need to declare that these laws are above the laws of men, should still be as important today as it was on July 4th, 1776. THAT IS WHAT WE SHOULD BE CELEBRATING TODAY!! Yet, how many Americans have lost sight of the reason this day exists? How many recognize or understand what was accomplished on this day 239 years ago? How many realize that what the government has done in the last two weeks violates the very essence of the Declaration of Independence?
I invite you to take the time to read this historic document. Read the Declaration of Independence and then tell me if we, as a nation, have honored the spirit in which it was written. While you're enjoying the day with your kids and family, ask yourselves if we any longer resemble the ideals upon which this country took such a courageous leap.
When I compare where this country was in 2013 when I wrote that original post, and how far we've slid in a little over two years, I am astounded. And I imagine that most Americans are too busy to even care or notice. So, if you are one of those Americans who don't even know why this day is a holiday, then you have a choice ... you can go back to your hamburgers and hot dogs, or like the people at the beach in the video, laugh it off as inconsequential; OR you can do a serious study comparing who we were in 1776 and what we've become, and determine that it is worth fighting for and make the effort to teach your children its importance. Because believe me, their future -- and maybe even their survival -- depends on understanding the meaning of July 4th and why it is worth celebrating.
1 Peter 2:16 "[Live] as free people, [yet] without employing your freedom as a pretext for wickedness; but [live at all times] as servants of God."