“One useless man is called a disgrace, two are called a law firm, and three or more become a congress.”
–John Adams in the musical 1776
“In a democracy, the most important office is the office of citizen.”
–Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis
The signing of the Declaration of Independence is worth celebrating. Independence Day gives us the chance to reflect on how the Declaration came about, its revolutionary vision of America, and our role in keeping its ideals alive. Here are two viewing suggestions to help celebrate America’s birthday:
The first is a talk by John Perkins, author of Hoodwinked: An Economic Hit Man Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded and What We Need to Do to Remake Them. You will find it at www.c-spanvideo.org. Perkins wrote that, despite corporate bribes and paralyzing partisanship, we can determine our future.
When people believe there’s nothing more to struggle for and just enjoy in the fruits of the struggle that made them possible, the revolution won is lost. The only victory in a revolution is won by the endless struggle to keep its ideals alive.
Man-made problems, self-interest, poverty, technology, climate change, clashing beliefs, the abuse of power, and huge worldwide problems threaten our future with growing urgency. But as Benjamin Franklin warned, if we don’t hang together, we’ll hang separately.
America can only overcome the challenges it faces if we the people keep striving to fulfill the Declaration’s dream of a free, independent, thriving country that makes the compromises needed to balance contrary beliefs. That’s one lesson from the funny, moving, timeless musical, 1776, Elizabeth and I watch on the 4th on Turner Classic Movies. 1776 offers timeless wisdom we ignore at our peril.
In his talk, Perkins asked his audience to do one thing every day to make the world better. Thanks to technology, writers have a greater opportunity than ever, not just to make a living but to make a difference. It’s easier than ever for the right idea and the right book to change the world, and the Web puts the world at your fingertips.
Perkins said that when Rachel Carson wrote The Silent Spring, she had no idea she was writing a bestselling classic that would rid the world of DDT and start the environmental movement. Whether you write fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, your passion and your gift for portraying the challenges we face and how to solve them will make a difference. Time will tell how big a difference your words will make, but the more writers who tackle the issues, the greater their impact will be.
So write your own declaration of independence from whatever is preventing you from writing what is best in you for whatever is best in your readers. Free yourself from beliefs, habits, and people that waste your resources and prevent you from being the best, most creative and productive writer that only you can be.
Liberating yourself will be something to celebrate every day. Wherever this finds you in developing your craft and your career, let Anne Frank’s words inspire you: “It’s never too late to start doing the right thing.” I hope the 4th sets off fireworks in your imagination.