Monday, July 25, 2011


Distributism is built on the belief there should be a decentralized, wide spread ownership of the means of production in order to allow the majority of people to make their living without relying on using the property of others. It is the antithesis of Capitalism, Socialism or Communism.

Capitalism is at its roots a sort of an economic
Darwinism, either producing well paid workers or exploiting them while destroying their dignity and freedom.  Often it leads to a plutocracy.  G.K. Chesterton said it well, "The problem with capitalism is that there are not enough capitalists."

Socialism and Communism are even worse as economic systems and ideologies springing as they do from Marxism which taken to its logical conclusion invariably leads to totalitarianism. 

In the words of Winston Churchill, “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”  Throwing in the wit and wisdom of Alexis de Tocqueville for good measure, “Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality.  But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”

Regarding Communism does it have any defenders left (no pun intended)? Really its failures are legion and so painfully self evident.

Distributism was designed by G.K. Chesterton and Hilarie Belloc in response to
Pope Leo XIII's encyclical, Rerum Novarum, but please don’t obsess over its Catholic roots.  Faith builds on reason. By all means subject this economic theory to logic and investigate the facts.

I challenge anyone to dispute the wisdom of these words from Rerum Novarum (over a hundred years old but as fresh as this morning’s sunrise) and their
application to reality.
“To labor is to exert oneself for the sake of procuring what is necessary for the various purposes of life, and chief of all for self preservation… If working people can be encouraged to look forward to obtaining a share in the land, the consequence will be that the gulf between vast wealth and sheer poverty will be bridged over, and the respective classes will be brought nearer to one another. A further consequence will result in the great abundance of the fruits of the earth. Men always work harder and more readily when they work on that which belongs to them; nay, they learn to love the very soil that yields in response to the labor of their hands, not only food to eat, but an abundance of good things for themselves and those that are dear to them. That such a spirit of willing labor would add to the produce of the earth and to the wealth of the community is self evident. And a third advantage would spring from this: men would cling to the country in which they were born, for no one would exchange his country for a foreign land if his own afforded him the means of living a decent and happy life.”
Truth and common sense are the foundation Distributism is built on.  This is true sustainability long before it became a buzz word
complete with the triple bottom line including genuine social equity!

Examples of Distributism would be not only farmers owning their own land and equipment or those skilled in the trades who own their own tools, but also Spain’s Mondragon Corporation a global industrial co-operative. 

It’s summed up concisely in their introduction on the company’s website:
“MONDRAGON Corporation is the embodiment of the co-operative movement that began in 1956, the year that witnessed the creation of the first industrial cooperative in Mondragón in the province of Gipuzkoa; its business philosophy is contained in its Corporate Values: Co-operation, Participation, Social Responsibility and Innovation.  The Corporation’s Mission combines the core goals of a business organization competing on international markets with the use of democratic methods in its business organization, the creation of jobs, the human and professional development of its workers and a pledge to development with its social environment. In terms of organization, it is divided into four areas: Finance, Industry, Distribution and Knowledge, and is today the foremost Basque business group and the seventh largest in Spain.”
In 2009, the United Steelworkers entered a framework agreement with MONDRAGON in order to create manufacturing cooperatives that married MONDRAGON’s worker ownership arrangement of “one worker, one vote” with collective bargaining principles, their goal being good paying jobs created by investing in workers and their communities. 

Employee Stock Ownership, Equity Compensation plans and co-ops where you belong, maybe even are employed yet without involvement with management, have similar elements but lack the key principles of Distributism which are ownership and management through the democratic participation and control of the workers plus a commitment to the common good.

Distributism has proved itself workable on both the micro and macro levels, where the jobs deliver good wages along with the dignity of ownership, employees are active and genuine stakeholders not only with a place at the table but together literally owning it.

Mondragon’s model is practical and visionary.  I will not be able to do it justice in such a short article but I’ll try to lay out how it operates under a form of Distributism.  It is an industrial co-operative.
Here is the basic structure of Mondragon according to its website:  
“As a business association, MONDRAGON’s activity is structured into four areas - Finance, Industry, Distribution and Knowledge – which function separately within a group strategy, coordinated by the Corporate Centre.
“The Finance area includes the activities of banking, social welfare and insurance. The Industry area consists of twelve Divisions specializing in the production of goods and services. The Distribution area includes commercial distribution and agro-food businesses, and the Knowledge area comprises Research Centres, a University with 4000 students and several Vocational Training and Education centres.”
“Each individual Cooperative is one of the building blocks in the organizational structure of  MONDRAGON, with the Congress being the supreme body for joint expression and sovereignty, with its Steering Committee as the highest management and representative body, whose duties include the election of the CEO. Those Cooperatives that operate within the same business sector comprise a Sectorial Group, with this in turn being part of the corresponding Division.”
Each Division is headed by a corporate Vice-president. The President of the General Council and the 14 Vice-Presidents, together with the Departmental Managers at the Corporate Centre make up MONDRAGON’s management bodies. The General Council is the body charged with drawing up, coordinating and applying corporate goals and strategies.
“In turn, the Standing Committee of the Cooperative Congress is the governing body whose mandate is to oversee and drive the implementation of the policies and agreements adopted by the Congress itself, permanently monitoring MONDRAGON’s business development and the management performance of the General Council’s Presidency. The Committee has 19 members chosen in representation of the Corporation’s various Divisions.”
“The Cooperative Congress is the supreme expression of the sovereignty and representation of MONDRAGON, being the equivalent of a General Meeting. It consists of 650 delegates who represent all the member cooperatives and its decisions are binding for each and every one of them.”
Using Mondragon as a starting point we can build a theoretical Distributist industrial co-operative.
To become a co-operative the company must be owned and operated by the workers with open membership and the democratic principle of one person one vote.  Workers are members of the General Assembly holding the full sovereignty of the co-operative ratifying and approving all major procedures policies and finances.
When a worker joins a co-operative they must purchase a capital holding in the company. The company could lend the worker money for their share at reasonable interest rates; deduct it from their earnings, or both. Their shares increase or possibly decrease over the years and when they leave or retire the company buys them back and they are given that money along with any pension or 401K earnings. It is important that only active workers own shares in the company otherwise they lose control to remote and possibly disinterested investors.  
Annually the company’s surplus earnings could be divided in the following manner (though figures may change except the percentage to the community): 10% goes to the community for charitable or other purposes to help the common good; 36% is reinvested into the company or savings while 52% is distributed to the workers according to their salaries and positions. 
Under one worker one vote a General Assembly elects a Governing Council which is a non-paid board that appoints a General Manager and works with that person to run the company.  The Governing Council has one person from each department, creates some sub-groups and a Social Council meeting the concerns of the workers and community.  The General Assembly ratifies everything including joining fees for new members and method of payment, general polices and strategies, approving the rate of interest on capital contributions, etc.   The CEO who is not usually a member of the co-op is often limited to a salary no more than 3 to 4 times greater than the average worker but in good years could receive bonuses while others have their capital shares increased.
I probably have missed something but you get the point.  There are many hybrids to use or try.   State, federal, and local laws will have to be designed to encourage worker owned co-ops and remove tax impediments.  Right now small businesses could be adapted to Distributism and many partnerships might already be operating as such.
Principles of Distributism are also applicable to public policy merged with subsidiarity and solidarity.

Subsidiarity is another concept originating in the Catholic Church.  Simply put subsidiarity wisely mandates in social doctrine that organizations exist to serve the individual so they should not interfere with what an individual can do on their own and larger societies should not usurp authority capably held by smaller ones. In governance, subsidiarity requires decisions and actions must devolve to the lowest practical level into the hands of the least complicated and smallest competent authority. Solidarity unites those with common interests, purpose or responsibilities and serves as the touchstone to determine the appropriate size of  the organization or government needed to effectively address the concern or accomplish the common objective.

Distributism, subsidiarity, and solidarity could address immigration and foreign aid to name just a few of the major challenges facing our nation and others across the globe.

Citing again Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum, “no one would exchange his country for a foreign land if his own afforded him the means of living a decent and happy life.” 
Obviously a strong Mexican economy with a stable government would curtail the need to look for jobs and a better life in the United States.  Regarding the 11 million or so people residing in our country illegally we should establish a path to citizenship coupled with an effective guest worker program with reciprocal benefits for each nation and our immigration problem would be solved.

In Caritas in Veritate, Benedict XVI reminds us,  
“Corruption and illegality are unfortunately evident in the conduct of the economic and political class in rich countries, both old and new, as well as in poor ones. Among those who sometimes fail to respect the human rights of workers are large multinational companies as well as local producers. International aid has often been diverted from its proper ends, through irresponsible actions both within the chain of donors and within that of the beneficiaries.”

Companies operating under Distributism would have the ability and guiding principles to deliver international aid efficiently and compassionately utilizing subsidiarity and solidarity.  Once emergency concerns were met the country in question could be empowered through education and a fair assessment of their economic strengths and natural resources.  Training them in Distributism would help build a sustainable local economy along with an international market when ready, under their own control stopping the exploitation by richer countries and breaking the cycle of ignorance and poverty.  Yes it would be a long process but anything worth doing is and restoring the dignity of a people ought to be the objective of every country in true solidarity of the human race.

Imagine a Haiti rebuilding itself into a sustainable, economically vibrant, and stable country.   Billions have been poured into it to little avail, but if a portion of those funds went into education, and training programs operating under principles based in natural law and applied through Distributism, progress would be made and dignity with economic justice restored!    And if it could happen in Haiti it could happen anywhere!

When I was young buying local, subsidiarity, and solidarity were a fact of life in our city neighborhood just like in other areas, urban, suburban and rural throughout the United States and other parts of the world.

We walked to local schools watched over by neighbors we knew and played in city parks supervised by caretakers whose names were as well known as the park.  Corner grocery markets abounded in our neighborhoods along with butcher shops, dairies, barbershops, beauty parlors, five and dimes (who remembers them), pharmacies with comic books and soda fountains (soda jerks were nice then, now too often there are real jerks in many big box stores), cleaners, tailors, gas stations (with real mechanics and pop machines), hardware stores, bait shops, and sometimes the doctor’s and dentist offices.  We could walk to the movie theaters and farmer’s market and every other day in summer, the ice cream cart and the singing farmer would come by with his truck packed with the fruit of the month.   He would sing “Strawberries, Strawberries, Chhheerrries!”  Local factories supported bars, restaurants, all of the other establishments and their employees raised good sized families. Obviously in those days we were sustainable.  Our city ran like clockwork operating its parks, pools, police, and fire departments fully staffed and repaired the roads all before the 1967 income tax was created.  Subsidiarity was the rule whether people recognized the term or not and efficiency the order of the day.  It had to be or things wouldn’t have worked.

Nascent Distributism lived in the partnership of small businesses operating on handshakes and honor.  Solidarity had families taking in the children of burned downed houses into their homes until the new house was ready or rebuilt. People fed neighbors as acts of friendships when they knew they needed it but preserved the recipients’ dignity by thanking them for taking the surplus food off their hands so it wasn’t wasted.   Anti-Labor Republican small businessmen created “work” for Democratic union members on strike. 

 Charity in Truth was always lived by many.

We look to the past and learn as the challenges of the future face us.

Distributism is a Third Way offering hope to America and to our Global brothers and sisters.  I have not done it justice in this article, but I believe it is the justice we need to do if we want prosperity, freedom and even peace.

Imagine the success of China, Russia and India if they embraced Distributism, built internal markets, created labor intensive industries producing quality goods, cleaned up their pollution, focused on sustainable agriculture, fishing and food production.  Distributism would also require ministering to their vulnerable, building real community by respecting human rights and defending life from the womb to the tomb. It would enhance the beauty of their ancient cultures and make them economic giants on the global stage.  Tourists flocking to their countries spending lavishly could fund a renaissance of arts returning them to the historical preeminence China, Russia, and India once enjoyed.

Instead if they keep imitating the worst of our materialism and continue to wallow in greed, incompetence, and corruption while poisoning their land and air, they will fall into an abyss of poverty, violence and disorder.  Without changing its current path and policies I give China less than 10 years to self destruct pulling neighboring countries down too including India.  Russia will not last much longer. War is often the fruit of such a fall.

Distributism must receive serious consideration from all concerned about our future. Economic vitality, justice and peace are all on the line if we ignore it.

I end with the words of Pope Benedict VI from Caritas in Veritate.

“All our knowledge, even the most simple, is always a minor miracle, since it can never be fully explained by the material instruments that we apply to it. In every truth there is something more than we would have expected, in the love that we receive there is always an element that surprises us. We should never cease to marvel at these things. In all knowledge and in every act of love the human soul experiences something “over and above”, which seems very much like a gift that we receive, or a height to which we are raised. The development of individuals and peoples is likewise located on a height, if we consider the spiritual dimension that must be present if such development is to be authentic. It requires new eyes and a new heart, capable of rising above a materialistic vision of human events, capable of glimpsing in development the “beyond” that technology cannot give. By following this path, it is possible to pursue the integral human development that takes its direction from the driving force of charity in truth.”

Therein lays the hope of Distributism.  

Friday, July 8, 2011


Protecting and serving.

I was raised with the children of police officers and fire fighters. My parents always taught us to respect those professions. Mom often said when the spouse of a police officer or fire fighter kisses them good bye leaving for a shift, it may be the last time they see them alive.

It sticks in your mind and it’s true. Yet some people forget. They forget.

Protecting and serving.

Mom lived in England during the bombings of World War II.    Uncle Tom fought in Burma, Uncle Albert with Field Marshall Montgomery, and Uncle Joe was with the RAF. She adored her hero brothers and loved but sort of looked down on her cousin Arthur who never went OFF to war.  He didn’t need to-Arthur was a fire fighter.  Every day he fought fires after the bombing raids, yet never said anything just did his job. One day Arthur risked his life and saved the victims of a firebombed building. It wasn’t the first time and it wouldn’t be the last, but it was the first time Mom heard about it. Arthur didn’t talk about. It was his job, what he did every day.  Mom learned there were heroes constantly protecting us, the Hometown Guardians of the police and fire departments. It stuck in Mom’s mind forever and it was true. Yet some people forget. They forget.

Protecting and serving.

There are seminal events in the lives’ of every generation burned into your memory so vividly even the erosion of time never erases them. When they happen, where you are and who you are with stays with you forever.  For my folks and Grandparents where they were when World War II started, for Mom it was 1939, for Dad it was Pearl Harbor, the death of President Roosevelt and the nomination and election of John F. Fitzgerald Kennedy our first Catholic President.  I remember when JFK got the nomination Dad went out and we all stayed up splurging on Cheeseburgers from the new place called McDonalds.  It is only partially true that I’m responsible for a billion of what they sold after that but in those days it was still only 6 million on their sign.

We baby boomers remember JFK’s election and then his death, along with the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby.  The whole world also watched in July of 69 as Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon.

For everyone currently 15 years or older September 11, 2001 when the Twin Towers came down, our Pentagon was attacked, and the passengers of Flight 93 sacrificed their lives stopping terrorists in a Pennsylvania Field was one of those unforgettable days.

Firefighters and police officers on duty and those off duty who came to help ran into those burning buildings and some never came out.  It was their job. It’s what they do. It sticks in your mind and it’s true. Yet some people forget. They forget.

Law enforcement and fire fighters from throughout America came to assist their New York brethren. The work was hazardous with the search and recovery conditions dangerous and toxic.  It was their job. It’s what they do. It sticks in your mind and it’s true. Yet some people forget. They forget.

Protecting and serving.

In the early morning of July 8, 2007 Grand Rapids Police Officer Robert Kozminski heroically responded to a family’s call for help and was killed in the line of duty by a coward with a shotgun.  The entire community embraced Officer Kozminski’s surviving family and little daughter.  Law enforcement officers from across our state and country came to pay him tribute as the color guard from his own GRPD kept watch over his casket and to attend the funeral.  Police Chief Harry Dolan led his department in the burial of one of their, one of our own.  I had the honor of riding in the funeral procession as we drove through the streets of Grand Rapids Northwest neighborhoods as hundreds lined the streets honoring our slain hero with flags, salutes, and tears. I’ll never forget being at the funeral Mass and graveside service. The Grand Rapids Fire Fighters erected a huge American Flag at the cemetery entrance with trucks and personnel joining other city employees present parading in solidarity with our Police Department.  Every member of our GRPD and their families knew it could have been one of them instead of Koz. Yet, it was their job. It’s what they do. It sticks in your mind and it’s true. Yet some people forget. They forget.

Protecting and serving.

Late May 2008, an Aero Med Helicopter crashes on the top of Spectrum Butterworth Hospital in Downtown Grand Rapids. Fuel leaking, flames blazing-fire fighters raised up the stairs joined by some off duty members and Fire Investigator Pablo Martinez days away from retirement, not even knowing his son was on the scene too.  Into the unknown they went, but the fire was extinguished and lives saved. Police and other emergency personnel were there too doing their duty as always.  None of them thinking about their own safety, it’s their job. It’s what they do. It sticks in your mind and it’s true. Yet some people forget. They forget.

Protecting and serving.

Yesterday a disturbed maniac slaughtered 7 people on the north end of Grand Rapids, went on a shooting rampage throughout the city, led police officers on a treacherous high speed chase, abandoned his vehicle, broke into another home and held three people hostage while police negotiators worked to save them.  They did.  Except for the killer taking his own life, no one else died because of the courage, competence, and professionalism of the City of Grand Rapids Police officers, fire fighters, dispatchers, and other public safety personnel along with law enforcement enforcement officers from our federal, state, county, and surrounding communities. We are one Kent- when and where it counts- in cooperation when help is needed.  Love and support are not limited by political jurisdictions. It’s a day people will not forget.

What happened with the murders yesterday wasn’t Grand Rapids.  The actions of our heroic public servants and the prayers, support and healing that will come from our caring community is!   

Exactly one week ago our family welcomed the birth of our grandchild Emily Grace and all we thought about was life.

I cannot imagine the sorrow of losing loved ones in such a fashion through murder and suicide.  Our prayers go out to all of the families involved and they will know the love of this great community.  They will heal and meet their loved ones again.

The neighborhood where these murders happened is where we raised our children. It is still a great place to raise children! Bad things happen to good people everywhere and can happen to anyone.

We don’t focus on how people died but how they lived.  Jennifer Heeren, 29, her daughter   Kamrie Dantzler, 12, and her parents, Thomas, 51, Rebecca Heeren, 52 along with Amanda Emkens, 27; Amanda’s Daughter Marissa Emkens, 10; and Amanda’s sister Kimberlee Emkens, 23 killed in yesterday’s tragedy will be remembered for their lives and love not the manner of  their death. We mourn for the living, the dead are beyond any harm and safe in Our Savior’s arms.  Even their killer has a chance of mercy much to the dismay of the evil one. The Blood of the Lamb was shed for all. 

As for our heroes, a bit of them died yesterday with the victims and their killer, just like every tragedy they witness or prevent takes its toll.  The killer’s name is broadcast around the world yet the majority of people will never know the names of those who protected with them with their  very lives yesterday as they do every day. That ok with them. It’s their job. It is what they do.

Protecting and serving. It should stick in your mind because it’s true.  It’s their job. It is what they do.

We should remember that always and never forget. Don’t let any people forget!

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Carl Sandberg said, “A baby is God’s opinion that the life should go on.”  It’s also the only way a nation can continue. Without children there is no future and a country failing to realize that truth is doomed.
Five days before the anniversary of America’s birth God made His opinion known through the life of my new Granddaughter Emily Grace Wheeler.  She bears one of the more pronounceable surnames of her many ancestors but as they said about the Poet Sandberg, she is "indubitably an American in every pulse-beat."

Emily’s DNA reflects the story of America.  Three races, nearly a dozen ethnicities, immigrants and Native American’s with all of their collective histories on this continent and others flow through her bloodlines.  All were united by one thing becoming Americans one way or another.

Some came with Cadillac to found Detroit. Some were already living here and some came in deathly ships as kidnapped slaves. Others came through Ellis Island looking for the American Dream or as the spouse of an American soldier.  Some were fleeing starvation in Ireland. Some were refugees from Hitler’s concentration camps and Stalin’s aggression.

Emily’s roots in this country are deep and old yet her heritage is global.  Nothing is more American.
Simply be being born in her parent’s hometown Emily is by the power of the highest law of the land a citizen of the greatest nation on the face of the earth with all the rights and responsibilities such a privilege entails. Babies born the same day at the same time just as healthy, innocent and loved in various countries throughout the world face starvation, war, disease, and other horrors, will never see their first birthday and we all will be the worse because of it. Emily will be raised with an attitude of gratitude and learn with every right there is a corresponding responsibility.
Next month she will baptized by her priest Uncle into the Faith many members of her family have held for centuries and learn Grace is not simply her middle name. It will build on the nature of Emily as she learns the Cross is the key to salvation along with Matthew 25, faith and reason work together to find Truth, the vulnerable, poor and innocent must always be defended, justice is required and Mercy is demanded.  Yet with a diversity of family beliefs she will know our Father’s house has many mansions and though words are important actions speak louder.  Emily Grace will also know the Mother of God. Lastly she will be told no person can ever be too kind, too forgiving or love too much and that God is Love.  Emily has the liberty to be fully Catholic and fully American!
If you could sum up the essence of America in only one word, it would be Liberty. No other nation cherishes or protects freedom like America.  Freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, freedom to petition the Government for a redress of grievances and the most precious of all---- freedom of speech. 
Without free speech nothing else would matter.  Free speech gives us the power to exercise all the other freedoms.   Without it we wouldn’t have the words or thoughts to operate a free press, call for a peaceful assembly, petition our Government or even form our own prayers.
Her parents and others will teach Emily this and that this freedom we celebrate was purchased by the blood of heroes, many from her own family, and she must never forget such a debt and remember it forever. She will also learn freedom must be exercised under the prudence of a well-formed conscience or it’s not real freedom at all. 
Most important of all Emily will know laughter and understand its healing power.  She will learn laughing at herself and WITH others is the only way to feel its pure joy and power.  Without a sense of humor life doesn’t make sense.

And I pray for many years, though that is not up to me or her, this Grandpa will hear Emily laugh at many 4th of July family parties and firework displays and indulge my stories of family Independence Days past and that someday she reads the Fourth of July Reflections of the Last Dinosaur.
Happy Fourth Em!  They hate it when I call her that but it doesn’t stop me, a Grandfather has privileges.
Independence Day or the 4th of July is one of the few major American holidays where the date is central to the celebration. New Year’s Day and Veteran’s Day on November 11th are the two others. Thanks to Congress and commerce Memorial Day has become a movable feast. Even the commemoration of arguably our most famous holiday Christmas on December 25th is not a result of the direct birthday of Christ but the Roman Catholic Church’s designation of its observance and the Eastern rite Churches celebrate the sacred event on the Epiphany, January 6th.
After all birthdays cannot be changed, and the 4th of July is the birthday of the United States of America now 235 years old, certainly worth a major celebration. From coast to coast in cities large and small parades, picnics, and community events will honor the anniversary of our country’s Declaration of Independence. Dogs and suds, hamburgers and sodas will be consumed with gyros, pizza, kielbasa, tamales, egg rolls, Italian sausage, pita bread with hummus and other delights now part of our nation’s rich culture and as American as the Red, White, and Blue!
At dusk citizens will gather for spectacular displays of fireworks exploding across our nation’s skies. A great time will be had by all and people will go to bed believing the observance was done right.
But was it? The ritual was there. What about the reverence? Do most really know what they were celebrating and commemorating?
Things have changed even over my lifetime. How many people, especially young ones, can recite the Declaration of Independence or even parts of it?
Would they know who wrote and signed it? Where and when? Of course everyone, yes even Sara Palin and Al Franken, would say July 4th and get 1776 right, but I doubt Philadelphia would be remembered as where.
To many, Ethan Allen is a furniture company and John Hancock sells insurance. History is forgotten and we are suffering for it.
A birthday after all is not just an anniversary of when a person was born, but the celebration of their life. The same is true of a country, or should be. Is it though? I wager most Americans, again even the former Governor of Alaska and the junior Senator from Minnesota, if asked what Independence Day means will answer freedom.
That speaks to our nation’s character about our fundamental beliefs and what we stand for as a people. Even after all these years Americans realize Independence represents freedom and that is a good thing. If you ask them what kind of freedom, many will say freedom from an all-powerful and tyrannical government and then rattle off the bill rights confusing the Declaration with the Constitution, an honest mistake made by many elective officials that should know better. A large number would say the freedom to be left alone another deep seated American belief and not too different from the original founders.
Still people nowadays confuse liberty with license, forgetting with rights come responsibilities something those men in Philadelphia who signed the Declaration understood extremely well.
When I was young (yeah I know I sound like a fogey but as a Baby Boomer we think everything happens in context to us so when we were young everyone was) the Greatest Generation was in their prime. They had conquered in World War II, got a draw in Korea, and were building the best economy the world had ever known and one of their own was in the White House. Patriotism and American exceptionalism were at their zenith and even the Moon and stars seemed within reach. On the 4th of July in the early ’60s celebrations and parades were attended and participated in by Americans that understood the true meaning of freedom and the Declaration of Independence. The Spirit of 76 lived.
Heroes of Normandy, Anzio, Midway and other legendary battles marched with uniforms that still mostly fit and in their footsteps walked cub and boy scouts in awe following the footsteps of giants we loved and wanted to be like. Over the years we have lost our way at times, but it seems whenever we can find those old footprints they still take us in the right direction.
When flags passed we saluted if we were in uniform and placed our hand over our heart when wearing ordinary clothes. In school we were taught about the American spy Nathan Hale and how he regretted “only having but one life to give for my country,” Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys, the ride of Paul Revere, Washington crossing the Delaware, Jefferson writing the Declaration of Independence, John Nixon first reading of it publicly. We had to memorize it ourselves.

Does that happen today? If not maybe it should.
Now especially when politicians, parties, and movements try to highjack our founding fathers and documents for their own purposes, history needs to be studied and remembered. Not just for our own sake but for the sake of future generations.
In the heart of the Declaration of Independence below we find our compass. May we forever follow its guidance as it charts for us the course of true freedom.
“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. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
America and its foundation belongs to us all. The principles put forth in the Declaration and Constitution are worth dying for, but they are also worth living for and living up to. Happy Fourth of July!