Two hundred forty-three years ago, 56 men put into motion an historical idea that men and women have a right to determine their own destiny. Today those freedoms and the ideals of democracy continue to burn brightly from our shores because of those original patriots whom we should celebrate on July 4 as we celebrate Independence Day.
Unfortunately, the significance of their actions on that day have been somewhat lost in the celebratory nature of having another long weekend at the beach, a cookout in the backyard and an excuse to shoot off some fireworks.
However, having said that, I wonder what those early patriots might say today, if they could look over our shoulders and review our progress as a nation and a people, if we were able to transport them in time to 2019.
I’m sure they would be amazed with the creation of the unbreakable bond we now share with the nation that we fought so hard to obtain our independence from. Great Britain stands as one of our most valued allies today, and has stood with America, as we have stood with them to reject tyranny across the globe, while dedicating ourselves, our treasures and the blood of our citizens to protect the democratic ideals whenever and wherever they might be challenged.
Our early patriots might be disappointed that we have drifted towards a professional ruling class of politicians. Our founding fathers saw service to our nation to be something one would do for a short period of time and then return to civilian life.
Those early leaders of our nation never envisioned individuals spending a quarter of a century or more in office. They would be astounded that one could stay in office for close to 60 years as so many have done while feeding at the public trough.
Our early leaders saw them as citizen-legislators and would have feared the exposure to corruption and special interest contaminating the system, which it unfortunately has on occasion, as those we trusted misused their positions for personal gain.
Those early leaders also understood the need for governance to be more locally based, but did understand the need for a unified and central government. Federalists believed that would be a necessity if a strong nation was to survive. That was not a universally held conviction however, and heated debates regarding this issue would dominate some of the early exchanges between those divergent groups.
I do think our 56-time travelers might scratch their heads as they looked upon our bloated federal bureaucracy today and question how it was allowed to reach this extent. Of course, a lot has transpired over the last 243 years, and much would be needed to be explained.
They might also become bewildered in reliance of persons on government programs, which tend to trap individuals and cause them to lack a desire to throw off dependency on those programs and political parties that chum the waters of the citizenry with taxpayer provided programs and financial assistance.
Those early citizens of America were self-reliant and those types of programs or needs for them were non-existent. However, most would agree many of those programs were created with the best of intentions, but some have unfortunately become abused and bloated with inefficiencies and waste.
I do believe they would be impressed with the generosity of our society and the good so many do for those that are in need. It has always been a hallmark of the American experience and its citizens.
As a people we’ve made mistakes along the way, but we have addressed many of them, especially in the areas of social injustice. It was a painful experience, but one which was necessary if we were to live up to potential that those that signed the Declaration of Independence believed in.
The nation they helped to lay a foundation for has become a standard for excellence in the world, one which many have sought to immigrate to in seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Those original 56 signers of that magnificent document can find solace in the fact that their original idea of a nation which sought liberty for its citizens would become the greatest nation in the history of the world.
History later would show the independence they helped to achieve for the new nation would become what led to its prosperity and strength.
Yes, it would be nice to be able to show those original signers of that document what a wonderful future they laid the groundwork for. Because of their vision for a better future for those seeking liberty and justice, free people today live in a better world. I truly believe they would be astounded by the future they set in motion for the world we live in today and thank them for their courage and sacrifice.
Steve Stefanides, well-known by his nickname “Stef,” is an experienced award-winning reporter of local civic and public interest news. Stef’s More Straight Talk column (and its predecessor, Straight Talk), on a variety of subjects, is a favorite of readers who trust him to bring them the facts. A Marco Island resident, Stef contributes to the community in many ways, having served on a number of city committees, charitable groups, boards and local organizations. Contact him by email at Stef@coastalbreezenews.com