On this day in 1776, our country's forefathers declared independence from the tyranny of the British monarchy and launched this shining example of democracy. However, somewhere along the way, the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" has morphed into a society based on violence and a winner-take-all mentality. The history of our democracy is filled with one tragic period of war followed by another, with all-too-brief interludes to reload. When school children are taught about our nation's history, the focus is mainly on learning about our glorious wars. Isn't this telling our children that violence is the best, if not only, means to resolve our differences?
Certainly, if we look at the fact that the U.S. has by far the largest per capita incarceration rate in the world, one might conclude that a large portion of our population missed the part in school about how your pursuit of happiness cannot infringe on mine. But wait! That presumes that there is a teaching in school about how to live peacefully with each other! Some schools may have such a curriculum, but most do not. We teach are kids the three R's, but leave out the most important "R" - rightdoing.
So where should people learn a sense of right-and-wrong and how to be civil if not in school? Some people will learn this in their religious communities, but they are also likely to learn about "us vs. them" and the concepts of "just war" and punishment for sinning. Many will argue that children should learn how to get along from their parents. But what about children whose parents are abusive? Those children will learn how to bully to get their way or how to be submissive, and the cycle of violence continues.
I don't know about you, but I'm tired of the violence. Several years ago, on the eve of the second invasion of Iraq, I pulled my head out of the sand and became painfully aware of the level to which violence has spread throughout our culture. I cannot go back to ignoring it, so I'm compelled to do something about it. This Independence Day, I renew my personal Declaration of Indepence from Violence, maintaining that all people are created equal and endowed with the unalienable right to live peacefully with neighbors, both domestic and foreign.