On this day in 1776, the Second Continental Congress approved Virginia’s resolution “that these United Colonies are, and by every right ought to be, free and independent states.” Two days later they approved a document giving the reasons for the separation. John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that July second would be celebrated for all time. Okay, he got that one wrong.
But in reading and watching video about those times, as I do every year about this time, I become more and more aware of the similarities among politicians across the centuries. In 1776, there were patriots, there were Tories, and there were moderates. Among each group there were those who came to their opinions through analysis and thought, and those who just went along with whatever crowd they were in. And then, there were those who “were more interested in a barrel of flour than the people.” All three opinions still exist today, as we can see each day in the news, and more directly if we look at the Gulf of Mexico.
What has changed is that today, the “flour merchants” pay for the political campaigns of the other two groups, leaving them beholden to the “flour merchants” more than to the people. They feel money can buy the voters, and so it is more important to appeal to those who have the money to give than the votes to give.
And so as we celebrate our independence, let us remember that our 200+ years of history are 200+ years of an experiment in representational democracy. America is never a finished product, we are a process, the only nation based not on ethnicity or a piece of land but on a set of ideas. And if we stray from those ideas and ideals then we will lose what, on July 4th, we swore to defend with “our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”