In this time of isolation, time has stood still and flown by, all at once. Somehow we are already coming up on the 4th of July holiday in the United States, which called me to review the excellent catalog of Jacob Lawrence from the Peabody Essex Museum. A footnote to one of his American Struggle works led me down a small rabbit hole and before I knew it, I was reading the Declaration of Independence.
If you attended grade school in the United States, you doubtless have memorized this passage near the start:
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.
But have you made it to the end? This is the grand finale:
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
I have lived all my life in this country and never connected the beginning of this statement with the end. Our national founding was deeply flawed in essential ways, but look at this aspiration at its core: We pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor to those truths – that all are created equal, and that our rights include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In declaring independence, we were really declaring interdependence.
Friends, as we debate the balance of individual and collective rights, as we somehow turn even basic public health courtesy into a twisted political test, let’s review the promise we made so long ago:
A mutual pledge for life.
Dedicated to my dad, who shows us every day that honorable citizenship still exists.
And, our new book is coming soon! We’ll be sharing some previews here over the next few weeks.