Write Your Own Declaration of Independence

In a few days we will be breaking out the grills, cracking open bottles of beer, waving flags and shooting off backyard fireworks. Some of us will attend big pyrotechnic displays at local municipal parks. Others will set up blankets and lawn chairs along crowded downtown streets to watch parades of high school marching bands, floats advertizing local businesses and organizations not to mention the shiny fire trucks, farm equipment and possibly the mayor and his wife. The local Boy and Girl Scout troops will brave the heat for that long walk down Main streets across the USA to toss Tootsie Rolls and suckers to children lining the curbs. Like people everywhere, Americans like to find reasons to celebrate and July 4th gives us reason to head out and do just that.

For the most part, the 4th of July is our time to celebrate.  But, I wonder how many  of us even think of this day as Independence Day and all that means in terms of the personal freedoms we enjoy today?

It has been a long time since I read the words of our Declaration of Independence so thank goodness for computers that put that information at my finger tips. As it reads, “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…”  As I read the words of this manuscript penned in 1776 I was reminded that this declaration was one of divorce; one country divorcing itself from another and in doing so to “declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” The writers proceeded to list the numerous grievances that lead up to the decision to break away from the English governance. Eleven years later, the final draft of what is now our constitution was penned and when the final state ratified it in 1789 it became the supreme law of the land by which we govern ourselves. Since then there has been some fine-tuning in the form of the 27 amendments.

Our celebration of Independence Day is our way of acknowledging the struggles of people starting over. They divorced themselves from an intolerable past ruling so they could reach out and embrace a brand new future. They would draw from personal experience to devise a new document based on what they learned from their historical governing roots. They would write a pledge to each other and to the country about how they would act towards each other, for each other.

This led me down other paths of thought. What was this paper that such an important pledge would have been written on? With what would they sign such a significant document so the words to be inscribed could be view for generations to come? And finally, how would they protect such an important manuscript? The answer is that these documents were written on parchment but not ordinary parchment. The material was a vellum parchment which was the finest parchment used for all very important documents. It was made by stretching and scraping sheepskin until it was very thin; a product that could stand up to the elements and time. The ink too was the best of the time. It was called iron gall ink. These very extraordinary documents were given the best materials so they would last, so the words could be read by all who followed. Now they are safely housed in the rotunda of the National Archives building in Washington, DC. and are still being viewed today.

All in all, these documents represent the struggles of a people who recognized the need to break an unhealthy alliance in order to create a new system that would be just and equitable for all involved. They realized that what they were undertaking was important enough to warrant significant conversation and consideration as well as to mark it in history in such a way as to preserve it for generations to come. This is what we celebrate.

Are there personal lessons that can be drawn from this common history?  Many who read my blog are in the process of ending unhealthy alliances. Participating in the Rebuilding class involves recognizing that wrongs have been committed and naming those wrongs. It involves looking at personal relationship histories to see where the relationship constitution was either never defined and written down or not honored by one or both. But a big part of rebuilding after a relationship ends is to create a personal declaration of independence and to have a good and respectful breaking away so a happy new beginning can be written. A good ending involves honestly looking at what worked and what didn’t so that a new personal constitution can be written based on facts. How will you begin to write your personal code now that you are single? Will it need to be amended as new personal information is made conscious? How will you protect and preserve your personal constitution as you move forward connecting with new people?

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