Dr. Bill Atwood

Speaking my mind

This Tuesday the nation will pause to celebrate 241 years of independence from the British Crown. Our founding fathers committed treason against their king in an effort to secure the blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity. Most of them had wealth and they understood they could lose that or worse; loss of their lives.

The 56 men sat in a crowded room in Philadelphia and argued about the issues of the day that would lead them to cast off the government they all knew to create one that people did not understand. That new form of government was self-rule and it came from a novel concept unheard of by any English subject; that men have rights ordained by God and that the government was really designed to protect those rights and to serve the people.

The delegates in Philadelphia talked of high taxes, unreasonable regulations imposed by the government, unreasonable searches, unjust rulings by jurists appointed by the king, concern for safety from attacks, unfair trade laws, and issues of racism (slavery).

The debates were intense to say the least but they were civil, and as events within the 13 colonies began to create public scorn for the Crown the delegates began to see the need to separate from England. What a gut-wrenching emotional roller coaster that had to be for those men. They were well educated, successful men who had been loyal subjects all their lives and now they find themselves loving their country and hating their government.

Thomas Jefferson was tasked with the assignment to pen a Declaration of Independence so that all would be clear why the colonies would be separating. The vote on July 2, 1776 to declare independence made John Adams believe that the day should be “celebrated in perpetuity” as American Independence Day.

The Declaration was approved unanimously as it had to be by the delegates on July 4 after much debating and editing, along with elimination of the parts attacking slavery,. The delegates realized that the decision to separate from England required an all or nothing buy in by all the colonies.

Most of the founding fathers suffered financially from their decision. England burned their homes and businesses. Crops were destroyed and livestock confiscated. Of the 56 men who signed the declaration, 12 fought in battles as members of state militias, five were captured and imprisoned during the Revolutionary War, 17 lost property as a result of British raids, and five lost their fortunes in helping fund the Continental Army and state militias’ battle the redcoats.

On Tuesday we will gather with family and friends to celebrate American independence with parades, picnics, ballgames, and fireworks as John Adams hoped we would. Emergency personnel will be away from their families during the day to keep us safe and healthy, and American soldiers will be standing their watch at home and abroad to keep us safe from attack.

Please remember their sacrifice as you enjoy your celebrations.

Two weeks ago many of us gathered to salute Betty Linn as she retired from Publisher of the Sierra Star. During that party I thanked Betty for her defense of the First Amendment rights in her work as a publisher of a newspaper.

In my years as a columnist with the Star I have never been told what to write or what not to write. John Peter Zenger led the way for the right of a person to write an opinion in a newspaper decades before the Declaration of Independence.

The right to speak your mind out, that’s America to me.

Happy birthday, America.

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