The Declaration of Independence is an important document that speaks about the history of our country and about the values of social change, still important in today’s society. Examples of social change occurring today include environmental changes, neighborhood reclamation in urban areas, youth programs that give students a voice and a sense of empowerment, and a woman’s right to choose. Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the document, hoped that the idea of freedom would spread throughout the country in generations to come:
“May it be to the world, what I believe it will be … the signal of arousing men to burst the chains … and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form, which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. … For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.” Thomas Jefferson, before his death in 1826
How did the United States become a free country?
In the late 1700s, the 13 colonies were under control of the British parliament where every man had to pay taxes. The taxes kept on increasing and more men were losing money for survival. The men got angry and fought back against the British. In June 1776, The Continental Congress decided to create a document that talks about their rights of not wanting to pay taxes. They called the document the Declaration of Independence. It was finalized on July 4, 1776. After a few days, the document was published by many newspaper companies throughout the 13 colonies. On July 8, 1776 the document was read at a hearing at Independence Square in Philadelphia. In exactly one year, on July 4, 1777, the British surrendered and the 13 colonies became a free country. This resulted in the celebration of the Fourth of July, also known as Independence Day. The celebration was established as a national holiday in 1870.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal…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…most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”
This quote from the Declaration of Independence exemplified the history of the 13 colonies. Everything in the colonies was controlled by the British Parliament. The colonies did not have any free will, which made the men and their families miserable. According to this quote, men have the right to promote change and abolish anything that stands in the way of equality. We have the right to create a new government and a foundation that will bring happiness and safety to everyone.
“In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injuries.”
Today in our society new traditions, such as World Environment Day and the Social Forum’s “Day of Action,” have been created to inspire communities to act on one social justice issue for a day. These kinds of changes incorporate the values and beliefs from the Declaration of Independence. According to this quote, petitioning an issue that is causing destruction to our world is sometimes ignored; however, to make others understand the issue is to put forth action and do what is right no matter the consequences.
This year on the Fourth of July people are figuring out ways to refrain the use of fossil fuels as a source of energy, because fossil fuels create toxic wastes sent out into the atmosphere.
According to an article from GreenConduct, many people are making changes in their life to be environmentally conscious. On this occasion, people are planting trees in their backyard, which will grow into larger tress providing us food and energy. Some people are joining parties in their neighborhood or somewhere close in order to save gasoline. Some are eating healthier by grilling up vegetables and some are using reusable kitchen tools instead of disposable ones. These practices are making people understand that our world needs to become a cleaner place. It can only be done by putting forth a petition or action and doing what is right no matter the consequences.
Besides environmental changes one could also think about what changes they could make for animals, especially pets during this holiday. According to an article from Change.org, author Led Vankavage, writes about the importance of helping house pets in need on the Fourth of July. “My friends and I would run around with sparklers, oblivious to the panicked pets around us. As soon it got dark, the ka-booms and oohs-and-aahs began. We didn’t see the pets cowering in the dark or running away from home.” Vankavage’s dog began to go crazy while the fireworks were going of on the Fourth of July; her dog ripped up the whole house uncontrollably. A friend of Vankavage had a similar difficult situation where she had to stay in a closet with her dog in order to calm her dog down.
“When in the course of human events…and 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 separate.”
According to this quote, we need to be respectful to all humans and animals. Animals have feelings as much as humans have feelings. We are all part of God’s entitlement to nature. No one is better than the other. If we can work to acknowledge and respect everyone including animals we will be creating more understanding.
From the article, dogs and other house pets are in need of care on the fourth of July because they seem to fear the sound of fireworks. Animal shelters become busy and stressed out on this occasion. For instance, the Salt Lake City Animal shelter brings in at least 73 dogs on the Fourth of July, compared to their average of 5 dogs on other days. Regardless if the animal shelter is in good condition, the dogs feel like they are in a prison and are constantly scared. The workers become stressed and frustrated with all the animals. The workers believe that if the animals keep up with this behavior they will end up dying. We need to be respectful and care for these animals under God’s entitlement so everyone is equal and happy.
The Fourth of July celebration in truth is more than holding up barbecues, displaying fireworks, and having a parade every year, it is about celebrating our freedom and spreading the message of the Declaration of Independence. The meaning of freedom brings about social justice and change by giving us the rights to fight for freedom, to change our ways to make our environment a cleaner place, and to care for animals in need.