With one signature, our forefathers changed the world. What difference have you made?

The world we live in is a beautiful, miraculous place. It can also be a vile and hateful place as well, given both the day and our perceptions. The battle between good and evil, my interests and yours, their power and our power, is a battle that began on the day the first human took his first breath. It will end when the last human leaves this planet for the final time.

The fact that today politics is so divided in this country, so depressingly hateful at times, can be discouraging and yet it is evidence that we have are at least partially succeeding in this great experiment. Citizens still get to have their own opinions, and get to voice those opinions and debate those opinions without fear of imprisonment. Although we may be discouraged when those opinions are motivated by hate and greed, rather than more noble intentions, it is still all part of the process and every citizen, can and must have their say.

I re-read the Declaration of Independence this morning. It remains even today, a powerful document. I found it both encouraging and frightening. The fact that many of the offenses we sighted against the king are now committed by our own government is a sign that we may have gotten off track a little, but I have faith that we can certainly find our way again if our intentions are good ones.

If our intentions are motivated truly by freedom and liberty, rather than by power, corporate greed and profit . . . I know, lately it’s not looking so good is it.

The funny thing is, although we celebrate this weekend with words like “independence” none of us is truly independent are we. We are all in this together. We are part of our families and our communities and our world. We need each other and we need to figure out how to live and work together. Even our founding fathers had vastly different political opinions at times, but yet, they united, on that day, with a common goal to form a country where their different ideas could be debated intelligently and civilly and together they could come up with a government that served the common good.

The goal is not actually to have a government that represents YOUR interests, but to have a government that recognizes and respects the interests of all, and makes decisions accordingly.

Many of us have gotten too comfortable. Frankly, if nothing is bothering you about this world you’ve lost touch with reality. I think there is often so much overwhelmingly bad news in this day and age that we just start blocking out those things that make us uncomfortable instead of doing anything to change them.

You may think your one vote, your one voice, will never make a difference but you are wrong. When a huge part of the population stops participating in the process, fringe lunatic groups take over. (See Mike Tipping for details). Groups who represent the opinions of only a handful of citizens suddenly end up making decisions for the rest of us.

Our forefathers, each with the courage to simply put their signature on that one document, changed the course of world history.

So I challenge you this day to celebrate with something more than a barbecue and fireworks. Oh enjoy those! I will be! But on July 5th, I challenge you to really think about how YOU can become part of the process. It’s too overwhelming you say? The problems of this world and politics are too great; I don’t know where to begin!

Here’s where you begin:

  • If you aren’t registered to vote, do so, right away.
  • Read, everything you can get your hands on, about upcoming elections. Inform yourself.
  • Volunteer for a campaign.
  • Sign a petition.
  • Stand in a line and protest something.
  • Send money to the candidate or cause of your choice.
  • Give a veteran a job and a chance.
  • Attend a meeting, a rally, any political event, in order to get to know the candidates more.
  • Talk to each other, debate the issues, learn new things.
  • Teach your children that they are part of the larger family of community and that they have responsibilities to serve others. (For more on this see Parenting Advice from a liberal).
  • Model this behavior for your children by being involved.
  • Volunteer as a family at a shelter, a fundraising event, anything!
  • Become a part of your community at large. Get to know your neighbors! We are all in this together!

Even better, if you want to really know what it’s like, what our forefathers faced the day they signed that declaration and took up arms, TALK TO A VETERAN. There are few Americans who have sacrificed more for the values they believe in, whether or not you hold those same values, you have to respect that.

Think about this while you are at parades and watching fireworks this weekend. Think about the men and women in uniform you see. Remember the feeling of unity this country had after September 11th. Remember how we all wanted to DO something, anything to help. Well, while were all sticking bumper stickers on our cars, these men and women raised their hands and said “Take me. Send me. Put me in harm’s way. Take me away from my family and all I’ve known. I’m willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to make a difference. Send me.”

What difference do you make? Well then go make one!

Photo credit: Jeff Kirlin

Photo credit: Jeff Kirlin

Karen Foley

About Karen Foley

Karen Foley, has successfully been writing her blog for the BDN since May 2011. By successful, she means a few people read it, and she has not been sued, stalked or fired since starting it.