I'd been away from pub trivia for quite a while, but returned for last night's Independence Day-themed quiz. (No, we didn't win.) I'm using this question because I wanted to post the Declaration of Independence today, anyway.
The first word of the Declaration of Independence is "When."
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government.
The document goes on to list the crimes of the King of England against the American people. These include a few we might do well to remember today:
He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.
He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.
He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.
Our current government represents the voting wishes of a free people, and I don't mean to suggest that it's committing any of these crimes -- but I think it's worth remembering what our Founding Fathers objected to in the first place, and what they were hoping to achieve.
The document concludes by declaring the colonies' independence from Great Britain: "And 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."
It is worth asking, as the 2008 campaigns hit full swing: whose lives, fortunes and sacred honor are at stake now? Of the people looking to lead our country, whom would we trust with our lives, fortunes and sacred honor?
Because that's what it's still about. These things are on the line right now, today and every day, and we're getting the government we deserve. God save us.