Sometimes just saying something does make it so. Sorta. For example: The Declaration of Independence. I have another declaration to suggest we use, as individuals. It throws the user into an immersive encounter with principles of being an American.
Rus VanWestervelt is an educator and writer in Baltimore (and distinctly, proudly of Baltimore). You can meet him at thebaltimorewriter.org.
He is also a compassionate, contemplative philosopher (in my view), things he would not say on his resume or business card. He has good taste in meditative music, too (so sez me). He put six minutes of Deuter on his Samadhi Sanctuary page.
Yesterday, the Fourth of July, I had the pleasure of reading his beautiful article, A Declaration, where he reflects on patriotism in a personal way from childhood to adulthood, learning along the way that the nation does not always live up to its principles. In his continued commitment to those principles, he reminds readers of the Emma Lazarus words at the Statue of Liberty …
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she / With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
… and he takes it much farther by doing something I don’t recall ever seeing done in school or in any public celebration or at home: he presents the complete text of the Declaration of Independence, and asks us to “Please read every word. Every single word.” (copy below)
Then he writes, “On this day of independence, on this day that we celebrate everything that America stands for, I offer a Declaration that is a little less of the grandiose and a little more of the introspective contemplation of what it means to be ‘American.'”
With his permission, I share it here, and embrace it.
- I declare that, as an American, I respect the rights of my neighbors, regardless of political affiliation.
- I declare that, as an American, I open my arms to the homeless, the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses.
- I declare that, as an American, I embrace the independence and individuality of my neighbors as long as that independence and individuality does not bring harm or injustice to others.
- I declare that, as an American, I shout my encouraging words, my art, my music, my ideas, my beliefs of what is right for all to the world regardless of the risk of suppression or judgment.
- I declare that, as an American, I work hard to support my community, to be honorable in my efforts, and to offer good will toward others who contribute to the wellness of our country.
- I declare that, as an American, I embrace inclusion, not exclusion, and my words and efforts shall carry opportunities instead of consequences.