When In The Course Of Human Events

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July 4th is a national holiday celebrating our country, but mostly recalling the unanimous Declaration of Independence of the thirteen united States of America. I believe that it is worth reading and studying the entirety of the actual document conceived and written by our nation’s founders. At least once each year it is incumbent upon us to carefully consider their words to determine whether or not we are living up to their courage and intentions. Take a few minutes to consider the meaning and importance of this document and then decide how to perform your own personal duties as a citizen of these now fifty united States of America. 

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — 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.

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts:
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut:
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware:
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland:
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia:
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

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Our Time

download.pngThere are moments in our lives that leave us without words. They body slam us to the ground and we find ourselves lost in a maelstrom of anxiety and confusion. We suddenly see clearly and yet feel unfocused and muddled. Time becomes so relative that it practically stops. We see the world around us acting as though everything is normal and we want to scream out, “Hey, don’t you know what just happened?” We’ve all had those kind of experiences and they are raw and visceral, hurting while making us just a tiny bit stronger even as we feel so vulnerable and weak.

This past week has been like that for me and my family who had gathered together in the beautiful Texas hill country to celebrate the freedoms and abundance that we so enjoy as citizens of the United States. We’d just had lunch on Monday and were laughing and talking and trying to decide what to do for the rest of the day when we heard a strange thumping on one of the doors. Once, twice, three times it interrupted us, and so my son-in-law Jeremy went to investigate at just about the time that we all heard my husband Mike’s voice weakly exclaim in a very slurred voice, “I can’t get up!”

Of course we all jumped to attention at that point realizing that he was behind the guest bathroom door and that something had gone terribly wrong. Thanks to the good thinking of my daughter Catherine there was a little key perched on the door frame that allowed her to open the locked door quickly. There we saw Mike lying on the floor lodged between the toilet and the vanity with his feet splayed in such a way that he was keeping us from opening the door all the way. It was his face that caused our hearts to stop, for his left eye and the corner of his mouth were noticeably drooping while he proclaimed that he thought that he was having a stroke.

I shouted for someone to call 911 and I think that my grandson Andrew responded first. Meanwhile son-in-law Jeremy had worked his way inside and managed to comfort and reassure Mike and pull him into a sitting position. Son-in-law Scott and grandson Jack attempted to remove the hinges to the door so that the EMTs would be able to get inside when they arrived, while Andrew, daughter Maryellen and I searched for Mike’s medical information from his wallet. Admittedly I also used this time to have a complete and total meltdown out of view of Mike. I didn’t want him to realize the depth of my concern so I let it all out so that I might recover quickly enough to show him a brave face.

Meanwhile all of the younger grandchildren, Ben, Eli, Ian, Abby and William were in the front yard waiting for the first responders to arrive, which they did very shortly. Those young men who emerged from the fire truck and the ambulance were a beautiful sight as they strode inside so confidently, ready to get down to the business of assessing Mike’s situation and rendering aid. By then the family crew had managed to get Mike situated in such a way that the opening to the small room was sufficient for the rescue workers to do their work.

After quietly taking control of the situation they had Mike safely ensconced in the ambulance with me in the front and Scott sitting in the back with the paramedic. By then all of the physical symptoms that we had seen in Mike had disappeared which was somewhat reassuring, but our fears had not abated as we raced to Methodist Stone Oak Hospital in San Antonio.

Soon Mike was in the care of the very professional emergency room team that included Dr. Mansur and nurse Alyssa, strong, compassionate and highly professional women who became my idea of perfect angels in that moment. Before long Maryellen, Catherine and Abby had arrived to sit with us as well. Mike smiled and mentioned how happy it made him to have all of his girls together.

By then his vital signs had stabilized and I suspect that his blood pressure was better than mine because I felt as though my heart was going to literally jump out of my chest. Still it was wonderful to hear him being his old self, laughing and joking with the medical personnel about being a Rockets fan rather than cheering for the Spurs. All of this was reassuring to all of us, but we were not yet ready to celebrate.

Hospital time is unlike that in the world outside its walls. It is a ritual of hurrying up and waiting. The wheels grind slowly, particularly on a holiday weekend when the staff is half of what it normally may be. We tried to remain patient as the medical personnel slowly but surely performed one test after another on Mike, all with great precision. Eventually they announced that he would be staying overnight for observation so that the various diagnostic procedures might continue in the morning. We reluctantly left feeling exhausted and confused.

The following day was a repeat of waiting endlessly. Mike demonstrated that his mental acuity was intact as he answered a question about the date by stating that it was July 4, 241 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and then proceeded to quote the document. I can’t remember a moment when I was prouder of his knowledge or happier to see that it had not been destroyed.

It was well into the evening before the hospital discharged Mike instructing him to follow up with visits to his doctors and a neurologist. It seemed as though the whole city was celebrating the holiday and we had to pinch ourselves into the realization that the world was indeed still rolling along. Later we sat outside Catherine’s house and enjoyed fireworks displays that gave us a tiny bit of hope and the first moments of happiness that we had felt in the last forty eight hours.

I’ve made a long story a bit too long. We have all been left traumatized by the events, but we are trying our best to hold on to the fact that Mike is still here with us. We know how much worse this might have been. Our new reality for the moment is uncertainty filled with questions. Ours has been a frightening journey but we now know that we were never all alone. We have a renewed affection for first responders who toil almost unnoticed day after day until we need them. We have a great appreciation for the doctors and nurses who stand ready to help in emergencies. We realize the magnitude of the love that surrounds us from friends and family. We know that the road ahead will be different but we are ready to accept its challenges.

I’ve often written about the serendipitous nature of life. I’ve urged everyone to seize the day and embrace the love. After our most unusual week I realize that such thoughts are far more than mere platitudes. They are guideposts for living. We really don’t know what is in store for us from one moment to the next. We truly do need to stop long enough to see and appreciate the incredible beauty of life. It is more important than anything to express our love and our gratitude as soon as we feel it. None of us have the assurance that we will see another day. This, here and now, is our time and it is up to us to use it well.    

Happy Birthday

4760252204_d1ab50cd7f_oToday marks the birthday of the United States of America, at least in terms of being the day that the Founding Fathers published the Declaration of Independence from Britain on July 4, 1776. That makes our country 241 years old which means that we are still really just youngsters in relation to other countries around the world.

Our government has made it through almost two and a half decades but not without a few ups and downs. Somehow our democratic republic has managed to stay intact thanks to the wisdom of the men who designed our Constitution. For better or worse their ideas appear to continue to work, but all of us sense that we have yet to achieve the perfection that we desire. In the long history of the world there has yet to be a flawless union of diverse people and ideas, so perhaps we are sometimes a bit too hard on ourselves. Still we long for a land in which people of varying cultures, backgrounds and beliefs will be able to live together in harmony. Perhaps ours is a pipe dream but it is built on what was perhaps the most audacious and daring experiment in freedom that history has ever witnessed. It seems to be in our DNA to want a nation in which everyone enjoys a full measure of justice and opportunity.

All of us can recite the problems that our country has sometimes ignored and other times attempted to unravel. We might spend hours outlining the injustices that were part of our past and some which continue into our present, but what’s done is done and our only goal should be to continue to move to an ever more just system. It does little good for any of us to stand in judgement of our nation’s architects given that we did not walk in their shoes.

I suspect that those men who developed the idea of becoming a free and independent country understood that getting everyone to agree on one document would be almost impossible, and so they were willing to make compromises along the way in the hopes that one day as the nation evolved the citizenry would be willing to accept new ideas and make changes to help our country grow ever stronger. To a large extent we have accomplished just that, but at the same time the world itself has become more and more complex. It is very difficult to read into our future because we are members of a massive global community in which there is a very delicate balance. As the saying goes, if a butterfly flaps its wings in Africa we all feel the effects of the flutter.

The world as we know it today is chaotic. People everywhere are searching for answers to very difficult questions. Just as with the ultimate design of our Constitution, there are no simple resolutions. Sometimes we have to compromise to keep the steady heartbeat of democracy alive. We find ourselves more and more often wondering just how much change is good and how much is too much. These were the same eternal questions that kept the signers of the Declaration of Independence awake at night.

Some of my ancestors stayed to fight the battles and some of my husband’s left for Nova Scotia to remain loyal to Britain. Who could have known back then where all of the furor would lead? Who would have dreamed that one day the entire world would be looking to our nation as a power?

In spite of my reservations about the ways in which our government runs on this day I still believe that I live in the best land on earth. I have traveled to other countries and viscerally felt the difference between our nation and theirs. On a recent trip to Mexico I was treated kindly and felt very welcome. The experience was quite lovely in all regards, but in the background were the heavily armed guards at the airport whose presence in military uniform was difficult to ignore. I enjoyed visiting the ruins of the Mayan civilization but could not help but note that the rest stop where we lingered just long enough to take care of our needs was surrounded by men in body armor who bore big guns at the ready in case of trouble. Our tour guide joked about such things and then reminded us that we should not try our adventure alone. I felt safe but had a strange sense of foreboding that I do not encounter in the place where I live.

We have a president who is struggling with his role and a Congress that seems to be incapable of working together as our Founding Fathers once did. We insist on all or nothing in our governing which has led to a great divide that far too closely resembles the state of affairs when our nation was not quite one hundred years old. We toss aside politicians who appear to want to compromise for the betterment of everyone and instead cast our lots with rabble rousers who refuse to acknowledge the things that we have in common. We forget that the our beginnings were imperfect but managed to give us a starting point. Today’s atmosphere would have kept us under the rule of Britain and we’d all be singing “God Save the Queen” if men like Madison and Hamilton, Adams and Jefferson had not been able to come to an agreement that began the process of establishing our republic.

I love my country and continue to have great hope for it. We will soon enough settle down and find ways to move forward together. It is something that we always seem to eventually do. I long for politicians who will unite us rather than divide. I believe that incremental progress is inevitable. So Happy Birthday, United States of America. Long may your banners wave. Let’s hope we can guide you through your adolescent years and into a future that will unite us as never before. I have faith in you. God bless.

Dream Vacation

Amboy, Kalifornien, USA, Hist. Route 66By this time tomorrow Mike and I will begin a twenty one day junket to California in our travel trailer along with two of our grandchildren. We are either excitingly adventurous or stunningly crazy. The potential for problems when pulling a tiny home thousands of miles behind a truck in abnormally hot weather is high. We’ve already experienced a number of unexpected kinks in our plans on short hops in the past. We’ve practiced our camping skills time and again. We have overcome violent thunderstorms, excruciatingly long roadwork delays, appliances that failed to work properly, attacks by tiny insects and a host of other difficulties that shall remain unspoken. Now comes the greatest test of all. We will either demonstrate our mettle or fail miserably.

Mike and I both have ancestors who braved the unknown to travel to a new world. The earliest among his arrived on the Mayflower. Mine were latecomers to Jamestown. Over decades and then centuries our family trees grew more and more complex and the branches took our people from Massachusetts to Nebraska, Virginia to Texas. The hardy souls who were our third, fourth and fifth great grandparents sailed across oceans in cramped quarters that make our trailer seem like a grand palace. They pulled wagons into dense forests and over mountainous roads. They lived without electricity or running water and somehow survived. They learned how to adapt to the environment and willed themselves to overcome hardship and disease. I suspect that we still bear some of their traits and thus will be just fine in our full hookup campsites with wifi, swimming pools, laundries and grocery stores.

Our plan is to pick up our youngest grandson William in San Antonio tomorrow along with his sister Abigail. Our first stop will be at South Llano River State Park for a good night’s rest before navigating through west Texas to Carlsbad Caverns. We plan to spend an entire day inside the magnificent cave that is truly one of the world’s wonders. From there our journey will take us to Santa Fe. In a stroke of luck we will be in that cultural mecca during the International Art Festival that occurs only once a year. We hope to venture to the Anasazi ruins of Chaco Canyon while we are nearby area as well. After three days and nights we will continue moving west to Sedona, a place that is reputed to be so beautiful that we may be tempted to forego the rest of our trip so that we might enjoy the scenery and the welcoming environment for a longer time than one evening. If our timing is perfect we may even go north for the afternoon to catch the sunset over the Grand Canyon, a sight that we have already experienced but which can never be seen too often. Continuing on we will spend a night in Needles, California within striking distance of our ultimate goal, Los Angeles. For the next seven days we will enjoy the multitude of scenery and entertainment in both LA and San Diego. The return trip will take us rather quickly down I-10 through Arizona and New Mexico until we reach Fort Davis where we will tarry for a time before returning to South Llano River in Junction and then back to San Antonio to drop off the kids before returning home. It will either be a dream vacation or a horrible nightmare. It all depends on the vagaries of nature and the unexpected behaviors of our fellow human beings, not to mention the multitude of possible problems that may occur with our mechanical equipment.

I laugh when I think of how soft we modern souls have become compared to our forefathers. On this day I often think of them and the incredible sacrifices that they made in the hopes of improving their lives. Passage across the ocean involved traveling thousands of miles with only scant knowledge of what lay ahead. It meant never seeing family and friends again. Every moment of every day was fraught with problems and no luxuries as we think of them today. Even the old homestead of my great grandparents spoke of the hardship and depravation that was their reality only one hundred years ago. We have advanced to an extent that truly boggles the mind. The pioneers who stretched out across this continent so long ago would be stunned to see us going from Texas to California and back in only twenty one days. They would think it amazing to learn that we can watch movies inside our “iron buggies” as we move rapidly down a concrete road and that we are rarely far from conveniences that they never considered even in their dreams.

The first colonists in the United States of America came to a rugged and dangerous land. So many of them died before they even took their steps off of the ships that brought them. Some grew and prospered and others merely subsisted. After two hundred years generations of people had lived here under the auspices of a king and a country that they had never seen. Being ruled from afar by a government that little understood their unique situations became untenable and they rebelled. Theirs was a revolution against one of the most powerful countries in the world and on July 4, 1776 they brashly declared their independence and intent to form a new kind of government. It was a moment that was viewed with skepticism in the halls of power around the world and yet somehow almost two hundred fifty years later our nation stretches from sea to sea across a continent that still seems to be working out the kinks of determining its identity.

We were guided by humans to this very moment in history when all the world looks to us either with profound admiration or seething hate. We understand our flaws and continue to strive to correct them. We are desirous of being a kind nation but wary of being too soft. We struggle to strike a balance between love of country and understanding of our role in a global community. The old questions and disagreements that plagued our founders stalk us even today. Still we are remarkable and I suspect that our ancestors would be quite proud of our accomplishments. They would no doubt caution us to proceed into the future with an eye to preserving the foundations upon which this nation was built while adapting to the realities of a time that they might never have imagined.

Somehow it seems fitting that Mike and I will be taking our grandchildren to see the wonders of this glorious country of ours during the month that sparked our independence. Wish us godspeed as we travel and help us to find McDonald’s for our breakfast, Walmart for our provisions and Starbucks to quench our thirst and keep us alert. We are venturing into a modern day version of the wild. Let us hope that when we think of our trip in the years to come we will remember it as our dream vacation.

  

God Bless America

i282600889609346912._szw1280h1280_I’m a bonafide cornball. I cry at weddings and when I hear truly beautiful music. I get goosebumps standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial or driving along Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. I am humbled with every visit to Arlington National Cemetery. I’m one of those people who likes to travel to other lands but feels a sense of relief when I am back on American soil. I love the United States with every fiber of my being in spite of its flaws because I believe that it is one of the few places on earth where a nobody like me has the opportunity and the freedom to speak my mind and to live better than kings once did. Whenever I hear the Star Spangled Banner being sung by a crowd of fellow citizens I am moved to the very fiber of my soul.  Continue reading “God Bless America”