Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Declaration of Interdependence

Today in The Oregonian, columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. referenced the final sentence in the Declaration of Independence:
"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."
Dionne went on to talk about a new service-oriented project, but as I was reading his column, I was still thinking about that sentence and its broader implications for the way we treat one another in our country.  We have a tendency as a country, driven perhaps by our long-standing value of independence and individual initiative or perhaps simply by our capitalist foundations, to be selfish.  We focus on self-interest and individual gain.  We complain about taxes and the idea that our hard-earned money might go to some fellow citizen whom we deem undeserving.  We see our small businesses as models of the entrepreneurial spirit and we celebrate the myth of the self-made man and then when someone dares to point out that none of us are truly self-made, that most success at some point involves the help of others, and that basic shared services such as police, fire and infrastructure are in fact funded by those taxes we decry as evil, that person gets attacked.

And yet there, in one of the two greatest founding documents of our country, it says "We pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."  It is both a declaration of independence and, paradoxically, a declaration of interdependence.  It is saying that those who participate in the great experiment that is the United States of America do so with the understanding that they will help one another and rely upon one another, that their fates are bound up together.  That they are a community.

Are we living up to that promise?  Are we still willing to pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to the ideals that all people are created equal and are endowed with the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?  Are you willing to make such a promise in order to be a citizen of the United States of America?  To give your life, your money, your honor to support the rights of your fellow citizens, whoever they may be?

Happy July 4th, everyone.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Cindy, you have crystallized a profound idea. Thanks.