Monday Musings: On History, Ignorance, & a Challenge…


I spent my 13th birthday at Hershey, Pennsylvania. Looking at that web site (something that didn’t exist back then – whoa), I don’t remember even half of the things they have now. In fact, it was a dreary January day, and we were practically the only people there. I just remember that we took a tour of the factory and bought some souvenirs in the gift shop…including that shirt I’m wearing above. This was the only photo of myself I could find from that day – flattering, no? Incidentally, after looking through my old photo stash, I’ve decided I didn’t start actually having good hair days until I grew mine out long in high school. Even then, it was iffy…but I digress (regress?).

The reason I spent that particular birthday surrounded by chocolate (ironic, since I’m not actually a huge chocolate fan), is because we happened to be living on the east coast for six months that year. My dad had a contract for computer work with a copper company out there, so my mom, sister and I packed up and drove across the country to join him. We spent half a year exploring every state within driving distance of our rental in Pasadena, Maryland (a suburb of Baltimore – or it was then, I have no idea about now). The Chesapeake Bay was quite literally right in our backyard…which was a lot of water to someone from a landlocked state. Honestly, the only thing I really remember about the water was that it smelled bad.

It was during our time there that American revolutionary history really came alive for me. My sister and I were homeschooled, so we didn’t have the limitations of being in a classroom all week. So once or twice a week while my dad was working, Mom would take us…well, anywhere within driving distance. And most of the states are so small out there, there was a *lot* of stuff to see within that particular boundary. On the weekends, Dad would come with, and we’d go farther. We went places like the Baltimore Aquarium (a favorite of mine) or the Washington D.C. zoo, Ocean City’s board walks and beach, Annapolis (where I was beside myself to walk down real cobblestone streets – how completely romantic, and I thought that then too) and the outlet malls, of course (my mom loves to shop). We never went into New York City (my parents proclaimed it “too dangerous”), but we looked down on it from afar, and we did visit the Statue of Liberty, which was quite an experience.

But we also spent a lot of time at historical museums, preserved estates, the various monuments in Washington D.C., and The Smithsonian (which I could very happily wander for years if someone would just make sure I had food and water). Thomas Jefferson’s estate, Colonial Williamsburg and Gettysburg all still stand out vividly in my mind, as well as several places in Philadelphia and Boston. Not that I’d recognize any of it now – I’ve never been back and I’m sure much like Hershey, some things have changed. But I’d like to revisit now that I’m older and more… philosophically mature. Someday, maybe.

In any case, seeing the places our founding fathers lived and worked, seeing the original documents of  the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and just being “steeped” in the rich history of the area…the story of those people’s fight to form their own nation stopped being just a story for me, and started to feel more personal. More like something I would have been proud to have been a part of at the time, and people I respected immensely for not just their thoughts and philosophies, but also their willingness to take the next step and break free in order to make their ideas on how to set-up and run a nation become reality. And they managed to do it, too – even with so many different personalities and ideologies involved, they came together and found a way to make it work.

It’s quite amazing when you think about it, and even moreso if you read the words of the men involved. I went on to study history in college (as my major), and my focus was the American Revolutionary period. I read countless documents from the men themselves – Thomas Paine, George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, as well as a lot of lesser-known people of the day. It’s fascinating and enlightening, and also a little disheartening given the state of what they created as it sits today. Regardless, I’m always in constant awe of what they accomplished together, and that this country they started is still going all these years later, even if we have made a great many mistakes along the way.

I see a lot of political posts in my social media feeds these days calling for all manner of laws to either be invoked or rejected, as per the person’s beliefs. A lot of those calls to action reference the Constitution in some way, but it’s normally a vague reference that leaves me wondering if the person has ever read the document they’re referencing, or if they just assume it says what they think it says. Or what someone told them it says. Frankly, it makes whatever argument they’re trying to make weak, IMO. Because you can’t intelligently propose changes to a document you have not read.

I think that this week in particular with Independence Day coming this Friday, every U.S. citizen who is able to read should make the time to read through our government’s main governing document, whether we’ve read it before or not. It’s not actually all that long, though it does take a little time to “digest”. I’d even go so far as to challenge people to read our Declaration of Independence as well, but if you’ll only read one, make it the Constitution. Then if you’re going to argue for or against changes, at least you’ll know exactly what it is you’re arguing for or against.

Ignorance is not bliss, dear readers. I do believe it’s one of the main things responsible for a lot of the problems we have in our government today.

This is my challenge to you for the week: Make the time to read the U.S. Constitution, and maybe even the Declaration of Independence – I’ll be doing the same. Remember where we came from this Independence Day. Often the solution to a problems lies in going back to the root.

No skimming. I know that’s the way people read these days, but this…this is too important to skip words. Read them all. Get a dictionary if you need to. Discuss it with a friend or family member. Give it at least as much attention as you’d give to a good literary novel.

Read the Constitution of the United States (includes both original and amendments)

Read The Declaration of Independence

And if you really want to go information-crazy, read The Bill of Rights while you’re at it.

Have a thoughtful week…and Happy Independence Day to all my fellow U.S. Citizens.


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