The lines in the Declaration of Independence that usually get all the attention are the ones toward the beginning.
The most famous passage is the one that says, according to the National Archives transcript, "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, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ..."
Those words from the American Revolution of 1776 get celebrated each year on July 4. They deserve the spotlight because they sum up so nicely the two big American ideas of God-given freedom and of democratic government.
Nearly 250 years on, Americans are focused on rights, as shown by, among other things, the language of gun rights and abortion rights around recent Supreme Court rulings.
We are also focused on consent of the governed, as shown by recent controversies over drawing congressional districts, the filibuster, and the 2020 election and its January 6, 2021, aftermath.
This year, though, the line from the Declaration I find myself thinking of is the one toward the end. That's the one where the signers say, "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."
We Americans are pretty good about securing our rights, though certainly not perfect. We're pretty good about working to make sure our government is based on the consent of the governed, though certainly not perfect there, either.
What I worry about sometimes these days, though, is whether Americans have forgotten that spirit of sacrifice that the founders expressed in that closing pledge.
Who these days is willing to put their life, their fortune, or their sacred honor on the line for the ideas of liberty and consent of the governed?
Sure, those who serve in our armed forces make the choice to defend freedom. The U.S. Capitol Police found themselves defending democracy. President Joe Biden — and the American taxpayers — have committed $6.92 billion in American military aid to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022. The Ukrainians are certainly putting their lives on the line in defense of the "consent of the governed" concept.
For many other Americans, though, risking life or fortune for the cause of liberty seems increasingly distant or irrational.
The richest person in the world according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Elon Musk, runs an electric car company that makes about half of its cars in Communist China. Earlier this year Tesla opened a dealership in Xinjiang. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tweeted in response, "Nationless corporations are helping the Chinese Communist Party cover up genocide and slave labor."
Other big American-based technology companies are also helping China. A June 2022 New York Times investigation detailed how "Apple has given in to escalating demands from the Chinese authorities." The Times reported that "to stay on the right side of Chinese regulators," Apple "put the data of its Chinese customers at risk and has aided government censorship in the Chinese version of its App Store."
The American founders risked their fortunes for the cause of liberty. Today's tech billionaires are accumulating fortunes by cutting deals with the world's biggest enemy of freedom.
Even the Declaration's concept of "Divine Providence" seems to be on the wane, given polls showing declining American levels of belief in God and a similar and probably related decline in regular attendance at religious services.
The patriots of Boston were willing to give up British tea for the cause of liberty. What American today is willing to pay more to forgo a product that was made in China? Given the decline in American manufacturing, such an approach would be practically difficult.
That patriotic passion, the willingness to sacrifice for freedom, is what will be needed to carry out fully the ideals of the Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal." The founders weren't speaking only of those of us lucky enough to be born in the United States of America.
The American Revolution won't really be finished until those rights and self-government are extended to everyone created by the Creator.
Ira Stoll is the author of "Samuel Adams: A Life," and "JFK, Conservative." Read Ira Stoll's Reports — More Here.
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