Friday, July 03, 2009
Every year in celebration of the 4th of July, National Public Radio broadcasts a reading of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, each paragraph read by a different network correspondent. This blend of voices bringing life to this remarkable document is inspiring and poignant but I frequently miss parts of it as my daily activities interrupt or I wake after it has started and only hear a portion.
This morning I woke a bit before 7 a.m. to the second half of the reading on Morning Edition, my clock radio just beyond my pillows on the nightstand. I waited for the rebroadcast a couple of hours later and I tried to stream it from my NPR affiliate, WAER FM in Syracuse, only to encounter a typical technological glitch. So I scurried to a radio and, again, caught it midstream.
I had to confess to myself that it is ludicrous that I am a 55 year old American who has, until now, never read this crucial piece of writing in its entirety. Not only have I not taken the time, initiative, whatever, no teacher ever asked me to read it. How did that happen? Norman Lear, the entertainment mogul, owns an original draft as a citizen to preserve its intention and share with other citizens and I have never even read it - 30 some odd paragraphs upon which our entire nation rests.
So this morning, I went to the NPR web site, downloaded the reading and I followed along in print. Follow this link if you would like to do the same:
What I discovered was an astounding treatise, a magnificent vocabulary lesson, an appallingly racist view of the indigenous peoples from whom we seized this continent, and deep inspiration at the same time. Oxymoron in its greatest sense. I also more fully understand the politics and history that resulted in the drafting of this document and the formation of this nation. The same issues today in many ways as I watch MSNBC, listen to NPR, tune into PBS and ABC, and receive breaking news from CNN in my inbox.
I am news junkie, this is a fact. But I am also dreadfully uninformed. This I need to change. Today I took a step. I immersed myself in the Declaration and the language of Thomas Jefferson. I started thinking about a lesson plan. I consider all before me who staked everything so I have the ability to live my life as an independent artist and educator, and to those who protect those inalienable rights this day. Thank you all.