Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 4, 2013

Securing this homeland

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on July 4, 2013

After two decades trying to be heard by London, the Continental Congress declared the independence of these United States on July 2, 1776.  On July 4 they adopted a document explaining their decision.

The document includes,

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.

While self-evident to some, such truths are seldom self-asserting.

On July 4, 1863 the Army of Northern Virginia began its retreat from Gettysburg.  The grand-children and great-grandchildren of those who adopted the Declaration gave their lives deciding what equality, liberty, and happiness might mean in practice.

Meaning remains contentious.

All men?  Men as in humankind or otherwise?  All? Is that what you really mean?

Created?  When?  At conception, birth, majority?  Where? NYC or OKC?  Yucatan or Utah?  Shenzhen or Seattle?

Equal?  Before the law?  In opportunity? In political responsibilities? In basic conditions?

Endowed by their Creator?  As a matter of natural law, biological inheritance, ethical precondition?  If there is no Creator does the endowment lapse?

Life? Including clean water and food?  Health care?  Death with dignity? Sexual identity? Eccentric expression? Angry and threatening?

Liberty? Prejudice? Religious belief? Gun ownership? Yelling fire in a crowded theater (metaphorically or not)?  Building in the flood zone, on the beach, in the Colorado pine forest? Is the essential liberty the right to be left alone?  A zone of privacy?

Pursuit of happiness?  Property?  Choice?  Hedonism? Epicureanism? Religious fanaticism? Is this 18th Century slang for eudaimonia?  Hot pursuit?  Along for the ride?  Brought along?  Unrestrained?

The homeland I seek to secure is a place where these questions are vigorously asked and different answers can flourish in freedom.

It is meaningful (at least to me) that we do not celebrate the day freedom was declared, but instead the articulation of our case for freedom.  Motivation matters.  Purpose matters.  A decent respect for the opinion of others matters.  Among a free people why is at least as important as what.  In the American context, freedom presumes reason and depends on listening: carefully listening to one another.

July 4, 1776 is our model.  July 4, 1863 demonstrates the consequences of departing from the model.  Where are we today?

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Comment by Philip J. Palin

July 4, 2013 @ 3:01 am

Of course, in another way, both Fourths signal what happens when active listening does not happen.

London was not listening. If, as late as 1774, King and Parliament had offered some means to facilitate effective communication with the colonies, this nation (these nations) would probably be much more “Canadian”.

Being in relationship: marriage, family, friendship, neighbors, consumers-and-providers, co-workers, shared citizenship… is mostly about effective communication (to make common).

When we do not speak-and-listen in a way that advances what we share, in one way or another we separate.

This is what happened on July 2, 1776. The Declaration of Independence confirmed the separation. But especially in articulating treacherous truths, the Founders invited their neighbors — and all people — to join in claiming what we share in common.

It is an invitation that still has the potential to bring us together.

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 4, 2013 @ 6:37 am

Both dates reflect great strategic failures, first by the British and second by the Confederacy. Both in the long run will probably be looked on differently depending on the decisions reached by the British and the eleven States of the Confederacy over the next 237 years. Time will tell!

Here is my guess for that time down the road a ways. North America will be a bilingual polity with several States off shore in either part or all of the British Isles.

Remember the childhood game called RISK! There will be probably five or six political entities largely organized over various continental arrangements. And as to Freedom, Liberty, and Justice those terms will have been redefined by history and technology.

And most of the planet will be subservient to the Chinese Condominium that before this century is out will consist of the following: Australia, China, the Koreas, Burma, Malaya, Singapore, Indonesia and Japan. This will be the economic core of the world and the rest of the planet will be commodity producers for that entity.

And 237 years out women will finally be the rulers of the future of the planet and society, as perhaps in some ways always have been.

The so-called American Century that began in August 1945 will be one of the laughable jokes of history as America chose ignorance and poverty as its cultural norm and the vast wealth garnered over centuries will have been dissipated by its inheritors in less than one century.

Only a minority signed on to the belief system declared on July 4th 1776 and today few in the USA would subscribe to its tenets. It does still get my vote here! Few are willing to state publically what they really believe in now!

Comment by Philip J. Palin

July 4, 2013 @ 8:47 am


The truths of July 4, 1776 were, as you point out, stated as a “belief system”. As such they have suffered — as do most belief systems — from failure, hypocrisy, and sometime cynicism. But as aspirations they have, it seems to me, fared much better. When we consider the shifts in “equality” from, say, 1953 to that of today anyone with sense of history should be amazed at what has transpired. Problems remain. Income inequality, in particular, has worsened. But in terms of economic and social openness, there has been a radical transformation. Moreover, there is considerable evidence that a significant majority of Americans are bought-into values of equal opportunity. Those who seem to believe otherwise have suffered political consequences, and may suffer more as current US demographic trends accelerate.

In terms of your global predictions, I will note that open systems featuring considerable feedback and flexible adaptation (aspects of effective communications, it is worth pointing out) seem to have a considerable advantage over the long-term. East Asia has a great deal going for it, but China does not (yet) demonstrate anything like our capacity for creative self-organization.

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 4, 2013 @ 9:42 am

Noting the absence of the word “FREEDOM” in the Declaration strongly urge all to read Professor Eric Foner’s wonderful book entitled something life “A History of Freedom in American Life” published about 2005!

Comment by Christopher Tingus

July 4, 2013 @ 7:56 pm


Comment by Philip J. Palin

July 5, 2013 @ 5:00 am

Mr. Tingus, thank you for the helpful link.

Bill, thank you for the reference. I think you are probably suggesting we read,”The Story of American Freedom.”

Professor Foner has also written, “Give me Liberty“.

I will recommend the new Edmund Burke biography.

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