On American Independence Day, 2017.

In the past, this blogger has posted images of fireworks – usually those in NYC together with a breezy note, if that.

This year, for me and for many fellow Americans, this year’s holiday has us thinking in other directions.  There are and will be plenty of fireworks, but this year, along with literal pyrotechnics, we’ve got verbal fireworks -metaphorical fireworks, and they’re not beautiful.

I re-read the Declaration of Independence today. I think many Americans know the preamble, or the gist of itScreen Shot 2017-07-04 at 10.02.21 AM
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Many sentences struck me about this document that I’d never given that much thought to before. But there’s one I want to point out: in declaring independence from England and the tyranny of King George, the authors knew that the best way to make the case for the legitimacy and necessity of their actions was this:

To prove this [tyranny], let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Today, on this July fourth, I’m thinking about how Facts ( capitalized in the original) don’t mean much any more to some segments of our citizenry.  They are not a candid world. Truth doesn’t matter. Lies are okay. Our president and his appointees, party members and supporters don’t care to make rational, persuasive cases about policy and position based on facts or based on truth.

It’s a frustratingly uphill battle for the free press and millions of Americans to fight the war being waged on facts. We ought to go back to the Declaration of Independence, not only to remind us of the principles for which it stands, but also, for the weapons used by the framers to make their case. We have to protect Facts. We have to fight for Truth. We have to defeat Lies.

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6 thoughts on “On American Independence Day, 2017.

  1. I’ve been struggling about what to say today myself (if anything). One reaction I have to your comments — if I am not misunderstanding them — is that the enumeration of abuses in the Declaration of Independence is really heavily perspectival. The American colonists were not all that abused, comparatively speaking; with their list of grievances, they’re articulating a political program, setting up the possibility of a new nation on the basis of eighteenth-century principles as opposed to the customary law of the British Empire, illustrating with examples. However: I would absolutely agree that in the Revolutionary era, the notion of the possibility of “candid” facts was not in dispute. The combatants disagreed about their meaning or relevance but not about their existence. You didn’t have people going around saying “that’s not a fact” or “fake news” or “that isn’t actually happening [in contradiction to clear evidence that something is happening]” as a normal state of affairs.

    Happy Independence Day.

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    • Thanks. My point was that the indictments were intended as facts to support an argument or arguments, and that Jefferson et al understood that by stating facts, they could make a compelling argument. As I understand it, the core of what each grievance stated is true – i.e. the King did it, or Parliament did it or disallowed it, etc. Whether all those individual acts were acts of tyranny or just policy could be and were debated.

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      • OK, fair enough; whether you see those things as evidence of tyranny is perspectival. I just think it’s also a selective list, and thus essentially rhetorical (building an argument).

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    • I did see it, and I laughed. But, I think in general, most Americans, even me included, aren;t that familiar with the entire document, including the indictments.

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      • Maybe my familiarity with it is unusual. I couldn’t name them all off hand but I’d like to think I’d recognize one if I saw it tweeted, just based on the language.

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