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How can we secure 'Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness'?

Our Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776, starts with the then-stunning assertion that everyone (well, all men, and it was assumed, all white men — but it was a start) are created equal and that the main purpose of government is to secure three “inalienable” (can’t be taken away) rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Until that day, governments the world over had not put much, if any emphasis on these rights. So, this newborn country was literally putting forth some mind-blowing ideas and making them stand as the purpose of the new government. The whole idea of liberty was new and radical — and it was crucial to the third right, pursing happiness. Notice the government wasn’t going to give you happiness, but just get out of the way of you pursuing it and guaranteeing you can make the effort.

We asked Ashlanders, “What should we do to best secure the blessings of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for ourselves and our nation?” This question turned out to be a major head-scratcher and people had to take long minutes to unpack their minds and consider the different spheres at work in making just yourself free and happy but also creating that for the whole nation. Several responders confessed they couldn’t articulate it, but here’s what the rest said:

Diane Englehardt — It’s a terribly complex question. To secure peace in ourselves before the nation and it has a lot to do with ecological issues, because it’s especially a burning question with all this heat from global warming. We’re getting a small taste of it and it’s going to need a lot of human ingenuity. We have to look at that a lot more closely.

Nicole Herzmark — Somehow we’ve given our power away to a force that is not the people or in our best interest. On a personal level, we can dance, make music and do gardens. We can have a revolution. We can rewrite the Constitution. When they read the Constitution in the park on the Fourth of July, I think, wow, what a great document. Why aren’t we living it? We need to get rid of the corporatocracy we live under. They write the laws we live with. Support local business. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is corporations taking over, without having to go through the courts. Our vote doesn’t matter. We have to take care of each other and remember human rights — support each other instead of the state.

Patti Browning — Be aware of what we can do as individuals to support our well-being. Don’t sell fireworks to young people. Believe the journey to peace is within, so be aware of the violence in your own heart and have compassion for others. 

Elinor Berman — My first thought is to be concerned for people who are outside in this heat. I hope the city is providing water for everyone at the parade. We have to watch out for each other. I hope people realize that everything we’re gifted with comes from Mother Earth — food, roof, clothes. Do whatever we can in our own small way to respect, love and take care of her.

Rob Gaskill — We need to get engaged on a very personal level and begin electing decent people who are constitutionally-minded, to defend and support the Constitution and especially the Bill of Rights.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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