“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.” (Preamble to the Declaration of Independence)
Sitting by my favorite Adirondack lake reflecting on the meaning of this date in history — July 4, 1776 — seems an appropriate way to begin this year’s Adirondack Chronicles. 240 years ago, that group of politicians we call the “Founding Fathers” hammered out a document that was the blueprint for our American democracy. The document was hardly perfect, and nor were those men the golden-hued deities that some versions of our history present. But they had a profound sense of moral conviction that people should be able to choose their own leaders, to live in freedom as a matter of justice, to enjoy the “inalienable rights” of life, liberty and pursing happiness.
This year, 2016, the world is beset with polarities about how we will live in the future. Terror is leaving its murderous debris in too many major cities and wreaking havoc on the fundamental bonds of society. Fear is driving people away from rational choices about a future in which we can live together, instead, forcing political decisions that seek to raise walls, isolate nations, arm everyone against a nightmarish scenario in which no one is safe. A slim majority of British citizens, mostly in rural or working class areas away from the major cities, has decided to disavow the European Union in favor of isolationism. An undetermined number of American citizens, mostly in working class and poorly educated regions, clamor for a candidate whose entire platform is hatred against anyone who does not look like them. Liberal ideas about justice and peace are dismissed as so much elitism. Embracing Leviathan is a short-sighted and ultimately destructive path to temporary security.
We need to safeguard our hard-won freedoms with the zeal and cunning of the mother ducks protecting their chicks. Throughout nature, it’s very clear that the protective instinct is fierce. But we seek protection not to live in prisons of isolation and fear, but rather, to have the freedom to soar, to move about as we wish, to believe and worship as we want to, to speak without fear and live our lives as we desire.
Up here in the North Country, the rhythms of nature set the pace for my days, and in this brief time of quiet observation about fundamental ways of life, I have time to reflect on the year ahead. Watch these Adirondack Chronicles for more news of nature and thoughts about the freedom we must cherish every day.