03 July 2007

But then I could never hear it again

My friends and I noticed several years ago that as soon as we buy a copy of a movie, we never see it again. If we're playing flippy-channels and run across it, we don't stop because "we have that on DVD" and we never seem to pop in the DVD. I don't know why, I'm sure, but we don't.

So please don't buy me this.

Every year on Independence Day, NPR staffers* read the Declaration of Independence from start to finish. I more or less plan my 4th of July morning around hearing that and by the time we get to with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor, I'm all teary eyed. In fact, I'm a little verklempt just typing that phrase.

There's something about that document that appeals to so many parts of my personality: the need to lay before other nations a tidy list; the "if we don't hang together we shall surely hang separately" teamwork; and the willingness to put their names to it and take the consequences. They were far from perfect, but they were better men, and far more heroic, than I.

The Declaration itself tells us early on that our country will never be perfect or even not hypocritical: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. In the 18th Century the set of "all men" - at least in Virginia - meant all male, white, Protestant, landowners over the age of 21. The rest of us were not so equal. And many of us are still not so equal.

So we'll never be perfect but we keep trying. Jefferson said “I am among those who think well of the human character generally. I consider man as formed for society, and endowed by nature with those dispositions which fit him for society… his mind is perfectible to a degree of which we cannot as yet form any conception.” But now I'm digressing into the Constitution, which for some reason I find less stirring.

Anyway, if you miss the reading tomorrow morning, the text is available on The Archives Declaration page.

Of course, if you're shopping, I wouldn't mind this.

*On-air staffers, of course, I never get to hear Stacey or Bej reciting our grievances, more's the pity. Although if they did, and if I got to choose which one Stacey would read, well, duh, it would have to be For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury because that would sound as though my G&S-hating pal were decrying the absence of that operetta. Which would be so neat.


Anonymous said...

Of course the Declaration is more stirring than the Constitution; the former is a statement of principles and grievances, the latter is an outline for a system of Government. Which do YOU think is going to read better? :D

John C.

Leta said...

True. Of course, the Preamble is set to a catchier tune.

We the people,
In order to form a more perfect union,
Establish justice, insure domestic tranquility,
Provide for the common defense,
Promote the general welfare and
Secure the blessings of liberty
To ourselves and our posterity
Do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

David Gorsline said...

Even if its doesn't make me tear up, I find the Constitution along with its first ten Amendments to be a much more impressive document. Stirring in its clarity, conciseness, and comprehensiveness.

To make a coarse distinction: consider the Declaration to be a Romantic document, and the Constitution to be a Classical one.