Keeping it real

The Damaging Three Words of the Declaration of Independence

By , 07/ 2/11 08:30 AM ET

When I moved to San Francisco decades ago, I was invited to any number of July 4th gatherings. They all had two things in common.

First, they were freezing. What was with this fog?

Second, at someone’s suggestion – I think mine, but cannot claim authorship for sure – we started reading the Declaration of Independence out loud. I had a World Almanac that contained a copy. Yes, the New York Times prints a full page version of the original, but those old f’s for s’s, among other stumbles, made us choose more modern type.

Our tradition was to set out the picnic stuff, run back to the car for another jacket or sweater, maybe a hat or gloves, then, once the shivering merriment was underway, pull out the Almanac, and open it to the Declaration.

We took turns, each person reading a paragraph or two, or part of one, depending on such factors as the reader’s dramatic interpretation inclination, or shyness. Then the reader would pass the book to the next person.

I really liked doing this – if not then, when? – but the tradition took place years before I started working on my book, Indian Voices: Listening to Native Americans and, well, I was not paying a lot of attention to certain phrases. My Euro-centric background was just fine with Th. Jefferson’s prose. So much of it was thrilling. “He has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts …” Whew! “… circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy” what rhythm, what cadence, I thought.

Eventually, however, we get to “domestic Insurrections amongst us,” and here it comes, the phrase that distresses me so much after spending close to a decade meeting, and listening to, Native Americans, that I can barely stand to read it, nor type it.

“… the merciless Indian Savages.”

Say what? From the elegantly-quotable Jefferson? Yes. “… the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions.”

While Native Americans celebrate this 4th of July weekend, probably with hotdogs and fireworks, and possibly a powwow (as far as I know, the day has not attained the level of dislike or dismissal in Indian country that there is towards Columbus Day), I wonder whether we might all read the Declaration of Independence out loud, consider what that three word phrase wrought, not to mention the words about “undistinguished Destruction.” Destruction of who by whom? Native people, among others, may ask.

The words themselves are so savage, it is a wonder to me that there had already been a celebrating of Thanksgiving.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alison-owings/a-radical-suggestion-exci_b_888897.html or http://huff.to/jrnGDv or http://tinyurl.com/6gtwxp5

Painting is by Benjamin West, 1771, William Penn’s Treaty with the Indians.   http://folkartcooperstown.blogspot.com/2010/09/building-peaceable-kingdom.html or http://bit.ly/miq2Ax or http://tinyurl.com/42gzj4z

Related Posts

Southern weed rewind The following comments, now updated a bit, were first submitted by email at the end of April.  They were promptly lost (raptured into the ether?) and ...
Politicized piety Separation of church and state? Not on the 2012 campaign trail. By  Jonathan Turley, Published: September 30 ... On Oct. 7, 1801, three men wro...
It hates the federal The Tea Party has a point about religion and the founding fathers By Theo Hobson, Wednesday 31 August 2011 12.30 BST ... There's a presidential...
And we better wake up President's fine words may not address the Middle East's real needs By Robert Fisk, Thursday, 19 May 2011 ... OK, so here's what President Bara...
Turning the sun backward How the religious right distorts history By Susan Jacoby, 01:31 PM ET, 07/06/2011 ... On the Fourth of July, the Today show featured an annua...
You’re never that far away As the US nears the brink, the budget row is exposing Republican madness By Gary Younge, Sunday 17 July 2011 21.00 BST ... Back in 2004 I met a...
National religion Santorum: Left hates 'Christendom' By Andy Barr, 2/23/11 2:35 PM EST, updated 2/24/11 7:57 AM EST ... Rick Santorum launched into a scathing at...
The Wörgl experiment Largely forgotten now (or intentionally ignored), this cautionary tale is excerpted from Silvano Barruso's account of the amazing, audacious Wörgl exp...
We worry Growing up in Michele Bachmann's world By Karl Giberson (for FrumForum), Monday 3 October 2011 12.02 EDT ... Michele Bachmann and I grew up i...
Patronizing myths die hard Arabs Give Neocons a Reality Check By James Zogby, 04/16/11 09:44 AM ET ... While much of what has come to be known as "the Arab Spring" remain...

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2011/07/02/keeping-it-real/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.