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Don't forget why our country exists and what it stands for

Two hundred something years ago today (during summer, “math” is not even in my lexicon. Neither is lexicon, though, so I’m not sure how that works), our founding fathers adopted the Declaration of Independence. It is a beautifully written document, even when compared to the hand-drawn version proposed by Thomas Jefferson’s 4-year-old daughter (which also almost passed, until Hancock expressed concern that perhaps King George might think the colonists were going to war over a picture of a discombobulated stick figure. Besides, as Adams mentioned, crayon might not ship well in the salty sea air).Joel Kwartler

But has the Fourth of July — just like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and the sacred Talk Like a Pirate Day — been superficialized as just a day for fireworks? Is superficialize even a word?

Recall what July Fourth should symbolize: the groundbreaking freedoms our Constitution later enumerated. We were rebelling against Great Britain — which later became the United Kingdom, which later became Manchester United — which was ruling our land and disregarding our input. It did things like quarter troops, place taxes on sugar, place taxes on tea, halve troops, place sugar in tea, close Boston Harbor, divide troops up into thirds, place Boston Harbor in sugar and place taxes on troops quartered in tea.

Sure, some historians might argue the conditions for people living in Great Britain were actually worse in some aspects, but, honestly, if you’re spending July Fourth talking to a historian, you need to get a life.

Actually, many of us might benefit from a history lecture. According to a 2001 Colonial Williamsburg Foundation poll, 14 percent of U.S. teens think we declared independence from France. Heck, 5 percent of teens thought we defied the Canadians. Thankfully, at least 78 percent of teens picked Great Britain.

Personally, I’m appalled. How could three times as many teens pick France over Canada? Canadians are brutal — just look at a hockey game. Plus, they have a superior culture; only an advanced civilization could appreciate curling. (For those not familiar with curling, it originated as a new type of therapy for obsessive-compulsive germophobes. The neat freaks were free to go about cleaning but had to avoid getting brained by stones their psychologists threw. Canadians quickly adopted this homeopathic treatment as a popular spectator sport, and ice skates were later added to give the patients better chances of survival, since most Canadian ground is frozen. Even so, many “curlers” still spend most of the “game” screaming in fear.)

These results are troubling. Sure, we could dismiss them as dated: Back in 2001, you couldn’t Google the answer while on the phone with the pollster. But the scary part is that teens are, to put it gently for the adults reading, the smartest demographic. Who else can decipher tweets with more hashtags than vowels?

In fact, I’ve got data to prove it (oooh burn, adults): When asking what country we declared independence from, a 2011 Marist poll found that only 76 percent of adults named Great Britain, with 5 percent naming other countries and 19 percent “unsure.” At least teens had the guts to guess, you “unsures.”

Everyone should know that we declared our independence from Great Britain and then adopted the Declaration of Independence on July Fourth. (Thus began the practice of naming all federal legislation by the desired result, in case the document itself failed. Exceptions persist: the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 has not yet increased airplane leg room to anything greater than the space between the front and back of a playing card.)

Much more importantly, everyone should know that we declared independence to give ourselves a voice in our government.

No one should forget the principles and ideals that have made our country what it is today. We’ve worked hard to preserve our freedoms for 286.3 years (full disclosure: I had Yahoo! Answers do the math, so I’ve no idea if that’s right), through various obstacles.

Speaking of obstacles, the recent IRS, NSA, ABC, DEF, GHI, JKL and MNOPQRSTUVWXYZ scandals seem to contradict the Declaration of Independence’s underlying principles. Therefore, perhaps this Independence Day ought to carry a special significance. We broke away from a tyrannical ruler, but are we growing into tyrants ourselves? As nice as that rhetorical question sounds (my compliments to the writer), it’s not that awful, yet. We should, however, make all possible efforts to ensure this stuff* doesn’t keep happening or we may just have to break away from ourselves.

*I had three other juicy scandals about the CIA, EPA and ALA — American Library Association — to put here, but they were censored.

Joel Kwartler writes a column every three to four weeks for the Lake Oswego Review. Kwartler will be a Lake Oswego High School senior in the fall. To contact him, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .




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