Originally Published: July 4, 2000 7 p.m.
What happened 224 years ago today probably couldn't happen in today's popular culture.
Americans take oaths and sign contracts every day, but they probably don't pledge "each other, our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor" (assuming they have any) to keeping it.
Nor do they risk what the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence did. The worst that can happen to us today when we sign our name is some financial discomfort or a lawsuit. The 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence risked far more, and many of them suffered and lost.
America has become incredibly fat, dumb, happy, ignorant and ungrateful. We have become a nation willing to trade our freedom for safety, lacking the knowledge of our forefathers that if we do, we'll end up with neither.
How many of us would be willing to stand up to our government, renounce our citizenship and be willing to go to war to make it stick?
It's hard for today's culture to understand exactly what the signers of the Declaration of Independence did and why. These weren't your ordinary street rabble. They had it good. Twenty-four were lawyers or judges. Eleven were business owners. Nine were farmers. They all had good educations, comfortable, steady incomes and power and status in their communities.
They had the comfort; they didn't have the freedom. Their government took more of their liberty and more of their hard-earned money in taxes with every passing day.
They had had enough, and they told England so. They paid no small price.
The British captured five of them and tortured them before they died as traitors. Redcoats ransacked and burned the homes of 12 others. Nine fought the British and died of their wounds or the hardships of war. Two lost sons in the war, and the British captured the sons of two others.
Today many of us will not pass up a favorite TV program to vote, let alone learn enough about the candidates and issues to make it count.
How lucky we are to have had people like this when we needed them. How lucky we are that the challenge these men faced and conquered isn't facing us today.