If you read my post in the Custer County Chronicle last weekend, you know I take a somewhat solemn approach to Independence Day. In the midst of all the celebration, I make sure to take time out with my family for contemplation. In that time, we read the Declaration of Independence together, and talk about our responsibility to protect our democracy through action.
I received many comments after that post in the paper. Some people think it sounds boring, that my kids might want to do other things instead. But I think there is nothing more fulfilling than taking time in the words of our forefathers. And there's nothing more important than protecting our children from bogus claims about what the Declaration and the Constitution say than teaching them ourselves.
As a child I lived in destitution. My parents, bless them, were incapable. My surroundings were dangerous; violence and drugs were constant. Back then I was miserable. But I remember the presidient - President Clinton - swearing with the most sincere conviction that if we all just worked hard, got an education, and followed a dream we'd be able to overcome anything. I imagined he was speaking directly to me.
I believed him with all my heart.
I believed that the Constitution laid a path to victory for every able American citizen. And that those of us who succeeded would be rewarded for helping and caring for the others. And despite everything - despite my dad's illness, despite being responsible for caring for my younger siblings, despite having to drop out of high school to find work to support my family - I never stopped believing.
Back then, it was true. But as I look around I see that I was one of the few to make it through the economic gate before it fell, cutting off the impoverished from a path to the middle class. Now, you can only get through the gate going one way: down.
Independence Day is a time of rememberance for me. It's a time to reflect on the vision of our forefathers. Though they couldn't live up to the ideal of Liberty, Justice, and Freedom for all, they expected us to supercede them. Anyone who has ever read the Declaration of Independence knows that.
That's why I take the time to read the Declaration to my children. Where we are today is but a single step on the road toward the great ideal, the United States of America envisioned by our forefathers. And if we embrace those ideals, if we stand up to the challenges put forth by those who wish to destroy those ideas for their profit - the big bank owners, board members at massive international corporations, insurance company holders, big oil profiteers - we can't help but reach that ideal.
Our responsibility to charge forth toward the Great Amerian Ideal is inherent in our citizenship. Acceptance of that responsibility is patriotism. We must teach our children young.
Whitney Raver is running for South Dakota State Legislature out of District 30. On paper, District 30 is the "reddest" in the state. But Whitney knows that Progressive roots run deep in her community. She is committed to uniting her community around common causes such as protecting the water, workers, and future generations from encroaching antisocial corporate interest.