Our ‘experiment’ is still going strong

By Ron Leir

Have you heard/read about the surprising discovery of the only other 18th century handwritten parchment of our Declaration of Independence in an obscure British archive?

If, indeed, the document is authentic, this could be the find of the century, especially if it leads to new scholarship on how the Declaration of the then-new Republic’s principles led to the next logical step … creation of the U.S. Constitution.

Wherever the academic research leads – the current theory is that Pennsylvania’s James Wilson, who signed both the Declaration and Constitution, commissioned the printing – it offers another reminder that the social compact devised by the Founders is still intact after more than 240 years.

Yes, the basic framework of government that holds together our ever-growing nation, with all its tricky twists and turns, remains in place while the debate over “states’ rights” and “nationalism” – as variously interpreted – continues.

Even through a Civil War that literally tore the country apart, even through periodic waves of bitter racial and cultural intolerance, through tensions of every kind that we would expect to rend the national fabric that holds us together, we manage to survive.

Yes, when compared to other civilizations with far longer pedigrees, we are a relatively young enterprise – with, admittedly, much still to learn – but hey, we’re still here.

And we are still the premiere country around the globe that – with all our faults – other countries look to for leadership, for new ideas, for the freedoms we take for granted – the freedoms for which our military personnel offered the ultimate sacrifice to defend.

If we don’t like what’s going on here, we can take to the streets (OK, first get a permit) and gripe about it, without fear of getting whisked away to an island prison or gulag of some kind and being tortured.

We can, generally speaking, speak out in the public press without fear of government stormtroopers coming in and shutting down operations.

We have the right to worship – or not – as we choose.

No question that there may be questionable laws that, from time to time, from place to place, tend to interfere with those collective rights, but we can still go to the courts to challenge those laws – although you may need to have a bankroll to pay your legal fees.

Yes, we have many imperfections in our society: poverty and economic disparity is perhaps the chief and cruelest villain. And we must credit media commentators like Tavis Smiley for their constant reminders that attention must be paid.

While we have not yet devolved to the horrors of the poor and hungry in Venezuela, those facing famine in places like Sudan, those Syrian families displaced by war who’ve lost everything and those world-wide victims of religious intolerance, we have an obligation to be a beacon of hope for a better life, at least on our shores.

To that end, we must never cease to tinker with our nation’s grand experiment in living, to be open to new designs that will facilitate people living together in peace and prosperity and to be willing to share those discoveries with our global partners.

We must do this because our natural resources are becoming even more precious and time is growing short for finding strategies to extend the life of the planet and the lives of those children to come.

We owe this to guarantee their “… certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.