Commentary: Declaration of Independence calls for patience once again

By Jim Russell
Empire Press Correspondent

On the Fourth of July, I re-read the Declaration of Independence. The eloquent language addressing oppression and freedom 240 years ago is still relevant for people crying out for cooperative resolutions in their current struggles.

The language that jumped out at me was the frustration people felt about inaction, that interrupted their daily lives.

The King (of Great Britain) “…has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.”

“He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.”

The King had suspended immigration reform. “He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.”

Political leaders obstructing immigration reform and strident voices for blocking immigration are relevant for our region.

The irony for me was I worked on this article while waiting for the cafeteria to open at Swedish Hospital in Seattle after my wife’s surgery. The voices around me were speaking a language I believe was Ethiopian because we noticed Swedish and (nearby) Harborview were employing immigrant labor. Ethiopians were custodians and others wore green medical scrubs. Medical staff such as two on the anesthesiology team spoke as if English was not their native language. They gave us excellent care.

The drafters of the Declaration were immigrants or offspring of immigrants and they referred to the endearing connections for families and friends in Britain. I could imagine the drafters’ interest in the latest information about births, deaths and plans from those they left behind.

Those memories burdened their thoughts as they bemoaned the futility of their constant appeals to embolden their friends and allies to support the colonies’ cause.

“Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.”

How depressing that must have been to announce to the world that friends and family separated in peace were now enemies in an inevitable war.

The King, restricting immigration, divided our nation’s founders from Great Britain, and today the issue of restricting immigration divides our political leaders and our population, leading to obstructing immigration reform.

We could view the irony of celebrating our freedom while being hampered by inaction on immigration reform pessimistically as a slide wiping out part of our progress up the slope to the highlands of justice.

Or we could celebrate the irony optimistically because the Declaration of Independence remains relevant after 240 years as proof the colonists courageously overthrew oppression and obstruction to “…institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect the Safety and Happiness.”

Signing that Declaration forced our ancestors to fire their imaginations and create the constitutional Republic that ultimately allows the creativity and will of people to resolve entrenched struggles.

We need patience. We can reach the highlands of justice.