Civic Duty, Hotdogs, and things that go, “Boom!”

July marks the halfway point in the year, and after six months of cleaning up my act from all the Christmas binge eating, I think I’m ready to celebrate Independence Day with my traditional half dozen hotdogs and a bag of barbeque chips! You’ll be hard pressed to know if the tears in my eyes are evoked by the Star Spangled Banner or the acid reflux.  

Though we tend to celebrate with food and things that go “Boom!” the foundation of Independence Day is the issuance of the Declaration of Independence. It states that the purpose of government is to function, at the consent of the people, to provide everyone with equal access to the God-given rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Two hundred plus years later, we celebrate Independence Day as a memory of the founding of our nation and as an opportunity to honor those who have served to protect it, but do we still hold to the original ideas presented in the Declaration of Independence?

The world is busy and government has grown complex beyond belief. Our lives are full already, and what little time and energy we have left to consciously devote to the state of our nation is crowded over with aggrandized accounts of conflict and corruption, to the point that it may be difficult to see the connection between the purpose of government as stated in the Declaration of Independence and the actions of modern government. 

What the Declaration of Independence does not state, however, is that everybody is going to agree on the best way to do things, so what we see when we look beneath the conflict is an ideological struggle to steer our course towards the ways people think are best. When a government becomes destructive towards the rights of its people, it is the ultimate obligation of the people to change it. This is the basis of our civic duty, and should influence our thinking each time we engage in political activities.

Conflict and corruption are unfortunate parts of this process, as is any other form of self-interest, but these are not ultimately the obstacles to the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The only real and lasting obstacle to our rights is apathy. This Independence Day, let’s set our hot dogs and fireworks down for a moment and reflect on how our independence is impossible without acknowledging our interdependence, and the responsibility we have as part of the whole to participate in the guiding of our nation’s values.