This is a normative node.

That is, it is going to ask you to actually go out into public and use the tools you were given to try to make a difference. A difference how? Well, here's the good part - that's up to you.

Fair warning. If you aren't at all interested in political activism in the United States of America, you can skip the rest of this now. Cheers.

Okay. One of the sources of constant frustration in my life, at present, is the burning need to make a difference of some sort, no matter how small, in the bloody train wreck that is (in my opinion) current U.S. foreign and domestic policy. While I do, in fact, have some options, I want more. I'm greedy that way. I want to reach out and touch the people running this country, and remind them who their employers are. That would be us; the American taxpayer and voter.

So how to do this? Most importantly, how to do this without getting bogged down in shouting matches about particular issues? Contrary to some closely-held opinions, I don't believe that small numbers of loud commentators make a difference directly. What makes a difference is when large numbers of voters indicate that they are actually engaged in the present debate; that they are watching closely, and that they may not be pleased with the results.

Luckily for me, Thomas Jefferson did all the heavy lifting. There's two things we have that fit perfectly. One, the First Article of Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, to wit:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Two, the Declaration of Independence - a bit of correspondence that has been called America's most important religious document. The Declaration of Independence was written, and read throughout the then-Colonial States, in order to proclaim and describe the feelings of ill-treatment on the part of the Colonists at the hands of Britain. It was intended to make clearly known the reasoning behind the Declaration itself, and to make plain the actions being taken in pursuit of redress.

So, (finally), without further ado, here's my admonition. Are you unsatisfied with anything the U.S. Government is presently doing? Well then, take all your customary actions of protest...and in addition, Declare Independence. Not in the sense of secession, but as a reminder.

Take the Declaration of Independence to a public, travelled place, stand proud, and read it through in a clear, ringing voice.

In so doing, serve notice to the leaders of our fair Nation that the citizens of said nation are not hiding behind their partially-punched ballots; that we are not waiting passively for them to "Protect us" from threats that they themselves alone define; that we do not intend to give them the powers of purse and polity without exercising oversight as is our duty.

If anyone approaches you and asks you what you are doing, continue to read. If possible, entreat them to wait through gestures, or better yet, offer them written explanation (perhaps in the form of this node, or - much better - in your own prose) while you continue.

Ensure that you are breaking no laws (unless, of course, your degree of protest demands that you do - in which case, make sure that any regulations or laws broken are in the form of peaceful protest only!). Do not block, hinder or accost anyone. Simply read your piece. Resist the temptation to make edits - the protest isn't about the precise words and issues set forth in the Declaration (although some, even while addressing King George, do sound awfully familiar...King George...hmm...heh.) Rather, the protest is about announcing your intent and capability as a citizen to perform oversight on your government. If there any guilty consciences in Washington at all, perhaps they will paint themselves in the place of Britain; if not, then at least they will know that we are watching - and if we later vote them out, then they'll learn to listen.

I understand that there are passages, ideas and words in the Declaration that may, perhaps, run counter to your beliefs. Again, I would entreat you, consider the reading not a support of those particular words and ideals, but as a reminder of the reasons for that document's existence, and the actions taken in response.

You'll be in good company. NPR performs a yearly reading of the Declaration of Independence, with no preamble. Slots as readers are highly prized among their staff. Granny D, a 90 year old protester, was recently arrested inside the Capitol building for stopping during her tour and reading the Declaration - handcuffed, if you can believe that. And, of course, Jefferson and his cronies wrote, read and meant it, those years ago.

As Jefferson wrote to Henry Lee later in his life, concerned that the reasoning behind the Declaration be properly understood:

"...this was the object of the Declaration of Independence. not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we [were] compelled to take."
- Thomas Jefferson to Henry Lee, May 8, 1825 (page 2). U.S. Library of Congress collection.

At the close of his life, Jefferson again returned to the subject. While his health forced him to decline an invitation to speak publicly before the City of Washington on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, he wrote to Roger Weightman in response and included the following opinion; that the Declaration demonstrated and stated:

"...that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god."
- Thomas Jefferson to Roger Weightman, June 24-26 1826 (Monticello):

That's it. Declare Independence. See if we can get arrested for reading aloud one of our most closely-held treasures (don't laugh, it's happened, usually because the cop in question is an illiterate idiot). Serve notice. Take ten minutes out of your day, or week, and rouse some fellow citizens' curiosity. Stand and be counted.

I hope to place this text, and perhaps some FAQs and sample explanatory prose, on the web at Wanna help? /msg me.

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