Every Fourth of July I read and reflect on the Declaration of Independence.  It is something I believe every one of us should do before heading out to our barbecues, fireworks, and beaches.  Unfortunately this most remarkable and influential document has fallen into such disfavor by modern academia and a certain segment of our political spectrum.  I’m not sure what percentage of high schools and colleges teach about this document in a positive and true light.  I think I would be saddened and angered if I found out the truth.

The Declaration of Independence called the United States into being and established the principal philosophies that were meant to serve as the bedrock that this country was built on.   The Constitution was written to ensure that those principal philosophies would remain the bedrock of this nation.

By invoking “the laws of nature and of nature’s God” in the opening sentence, Thomas Jefferson is stating quite emphatically that Natural Law was meant to be the cornerstone the United States will be built on.  The concept of Natural Law did not originate with Thomas Jefferson.  It can be traced back to Marcus Cicero around 100 BC and even to Ancient Israel.  John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, which was entirely about Natural Law, most heavily influenced Jefferson’s writing of the Declaration of Independence.  After reading the Two Treatises and the Declaration it will be clear that all the themes of the Declaration were derived from Natural Law.

Individual God-given Natural Rights are one of the most important components of Natural Law.  The denial and abuse of these rights by England was the justification for our declaring independence.  The fact that each and every individual is “endowed by their Creator” with rights and that these rights are “unalienable” is the single most important concept contained in the Declaration.  This is far superior to all of the collectivist philosophies that most of the world’s population has lived under.  Every single individual is the most important person in the United States and the government cannot violate the rights of any individual without breaking God’s law.

Every individual has the same worth in the eyes of God.  That is the meaning of the statement “all men are created equal.”   All laws must apply equally to everyone, no matter who they are.  In direct contrast to socialism, all individuals under Natural Law are not entitled to equal things.  To ensure all have equal things governments must forcibly confiscate the property of some individuals and give it to others.  No one has a right to take the property of another without consent, especially the government.  Every individual has the right to pursue whatever makes them happy, but they must grab hold of it themselves.

Liberty is another crucial concept from Natural Law that is featured in the Declaration of Independence.  It is a concept that so few understand today, thanks to our abysmal educational system.  Most confuse the definition of liberty with the definition of freedom, which I encountered in this online definition.  They are related but not identical.  Liberty is the freedom to do whatever you want as long as you don’t hurt others or interfere with the rights of others.  It is freedom with responsibility.    What happens if you hurt others or interfere with the rights of others under our constitutional system of government?  Then the government at the appropriate level must restrain you to prevent you from continuing this behavior and the government must punish you to make sure you do not do it again.  What happens if you do not hurt others or interfere with others?  Under the constitutional system of this country, as it was originally intended, the government, at all levels, must leave you alone to live your life as you choose.  That is true for every individual.  Are we still free to live our lives as we choose in this country?  Sadly government at all levels is determined to micromanage our lives, leaving us all far from free to live our lives as we choose.

As an originalist at heart, I’m always skeptical of any form of “modernization” that anyone attempts to institute on government functions, ideas, or philosophies. That’s not to say that I want the world to work strictly from rules made in the 18th century, but human nature in general and progressive nature in particular tend to corrupt through modernization rather than improve.

One exception that should be discussed would be the modernization of the unalienable rights set forth in the Declaration of Independence. Unlike the Constitution or the Amendments that should only be tampered with through the prescribed amendment powers given to the federal government as well as the states, the Declaration of Independence should be examined for the sake of its 21st century validity. We are no longer under the rule of England. We have a nation that is sovereign, a government system that is tested, and a people that are empowered. By examining the unalienable rights as they apply today, it’s possible to bring them back into a focus in a way that is more applicable today.

This isn’t an exercise in hypotheticals. I believe that we are at a point in American history when the Declaration of Independence needs to be remembered and applied. No, I don’t mean that it’s time to overthrow the government or kick California out of the Union once and for all. Because we are a people who are not oppressed by outside governments, the need for independence is not applicable. However, the unalienable rights mentioned in the document apply today perhaps more so than they applied back then.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are listed as unalienable rights called out specifically from the group. They are endowed by our Creator and apply today. Unfortunately, they don’t have the same meaning to modern-day Americans, which is why I believe we need to do a quick examination of how they should apply going forward given the situation.


The first is the one that hasn’t changed in name but has changed in focus. Life is sacred. It is God-given and must be protected. It is a right and it should be unalienable. Today, liberals are trying to redefine life on multiple levels. The most obvious is, of course, pre-birth life. Abortion was not the evil scourge sweeping the nation in the 18th century. TO them, life was a right that could be taken away by other men, but they did not need to specifically call out when life began and when the taking of that life should be considered murder.

Today, we have that issue.

Rather than redefining, it’s important to maintain the same name as, in its purest form, it exemplifies the unalienable right perfectly. Should babies before birth be murdered as if they weren’t alive? Should terminally ill patients be assisted in their efforts to take their own life? Is the death penalty righteous, or perhaps a better way to ask the question is whether or not our justice system can declare when someone has committed enough harm on others to forfeit their right to continue to live?

Personally, I am as pro-life as one can be in regards to abortion and assisted suicide and I’m for the death penalty, not as a deterrent to crime but as an aid in healing the loved ones of victims. As Americans, the question of life is something that should be answered on a personal level by every individual. It amazed me that people can have no opinion on any of these issues. After all, we’re talking about the most precious gift given to man in this world.


There is a challenge. Just as many have said that “conservatism” has been improperly co-opted and redefined to fit a particular paradigm, so to has the word “liberty.” Because we no longer fight for liberty from foreign, but rather from our own government, we have witnessed the original intent of liberty getting mangled in recent decades.

It was telling when the Libertarian nominee for President viewed liberty as strangely attached to feelings. From his perspective, if someone walked into a bakery owned by a devout Jew and asked them to bake a cake shaped like a swastika, the modernized definition of liberty states that the Jewish baker cannot infringe on someone’s right to have the cake they want baked. This is, in my humble opinion, a perversion of liberty. Just as a Christian bakery should not be forced to make a gay wedding cake, we cannot allow liberty to be used as an excuse to take away someone’s liberty.

All of this leads to our first shift in names. Rather than liberty, which only seems to maintain purity when we’re fighting against oppressive outside forces, we should instead embrace its close cousin, “freedom.” This aligns better with the Constitution; freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly – yes, they’re liberties, but when we see them more appropriately as freedoms, we have a more defensible unalienable right. Antisemitism might be viewed as liberty to some, but that liberty cannot be allowed to supersede the freedom of a private business owner who does not want to participate in the celebration or promotion of an organization that killed millions.

Pursuit of Happiness

Like liberty, the left has taken the original concept of our pursuit of happiness and muddied the waters with social justice and political correctness. Today, if a student feels triggered because their happiness is impeded by someone else’s actions, even if those actions had neither the intent nor the realistic expectation of causing harm, they are allowed to feel like their rights are being attacked. It’s ridiculous.

Happiness is not a right! It never has been. The ability to pursue happiness is the unalienable right, perfectly worded in the 18th century and perfectly perverted today.

To me, the clearest way to enable the pursuit of happiness is through reduction of government interference. On the surface, one might wonder how smaller government can be associated with the pursuit of happiness. If you take a moment to truly consider it, you’ll see that it’s through government interaction that the pursuit of happiness is most hindered. In short, more government drains happiness while less government enables it.

If we look at America’s needs through a 21st century lens, we will see that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, freedom and an appropriately small degree of government. If those things become our focus as a conservative movement, we’ll have our best chance of surviving the leftward lurch that the government has been experiencing in recent years.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Happy Independence Day!  Normally we are in the Midwest on July 4 visiting family and in my mind, that’s one of the best places to celebrate this day.  I love the patriotism on display in that part of the country and the little, small town parades with tractors, horses, and flatbeds.  What’s a Fourth of July parade without a big John Deere tractor?  But, we are home this year, in the humid South.

How are you spending the day?  If you’re still looking for suggestions, I have a few:

  1. Read the Declaration of Independencereally read it.  It’s a beautifully written document.
  2. Make one of those pretty flag cakes.
  3. Get out in your community and watch a parade, attend a neighborhood event, or watch a fireworks display.
  4. Watch the Boston Pops tonight on CBS at 8:00 p.m. – wonderful music and fireworks! The Macy’s fireworks show will be on NBC.
  5. Don’t forget to fly your flag today. USA Today notes today that 63.9% of the people in America own a U.S. Flag (although most of them are made in China.)
  6. If it’s legal in your community, do some fireworks with the kids – what kid isn’t fascinated with the sulphurous, metallic glow of a sparkler? Consumers will spend about $755 million dollars on fireworks this year and civic displays even more.  (Also from China.)
  7. Take the American Flag trivia quiz.
  8. Make some homemade ice cream. Doctor it up with fresh peaches or strawberries – whatever you like!
  9. Watch the HBO miniseries about John Adams. The cast was wonderful and the first couple of episodes are especially appropriate for today. The David McCullough book is even better.
  10. Take a virtual tour of the Statue of Liberty. Here are Fifty Fascinating Facts about Lady Liberty.

Wherever you are, enjoy the day.  Meet your neighbors, have some fun, cook a hot dog.  Watch a baseball game. Try to avoid politics today.  As divided as we are these days as Americans, it is good sometimes to sit back and remember the sacrifices the Founders made when they formed this country.  While the world has indeed changed a great deal since then, in the most basic ways it is still very much the same.


Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

Bicentennial logoBy John Ruberry

Tomorrow, July 4, 2016, will be the 240th anniversary of America’s independence. Which means in ten years the United States will be 250 years old, one-quarter of a millennium.

I’m old enough to remember America’s bicentennial, and while there was some feeling of bicentennial overkill–CBS TV’s daily Bicentennial Minutes aired for over two years–the USA’s 200th birthday was a welcome respite from the bleak 1970s, a decade that was plagued by war, riots, racial conflict, a moribund economy, and a feeling that America’s best days were behind it. Kinda like right now.

Eight years of Ronald Reagan righted the ship.

How is the planning for the American sestercentennial coming along? Well, it’s almost non-existent. I found a Facebook group, a website, and a few articles on the ‘net here and there, but as of now it’s a non-event.

Contrast that situation with 1966, ten years before the USA’s 200th annivesary Congress created the Bicentennial Commission.

Hopefully things will move quicker once Barack Obama is out of office. Obama has never been a flag-waving patriot. He famously explained to a reporter in 2007 that his reason for not wearing a US flag pin on his lapel was because it didn’t represent “true patriotism.” All of the other 2008 presidential candidates wore those pins.

This year Bernie Sanders didn’t.

Bicentennial mural in Tampico, IL, where Reagan was born
Bicentennial mural in Tampico, IL in 2011, where Ronald Reagan was born

Obama’s base of support, and Sanders’ too, is the far-left; many of these leftists believe that America is strong only because it stole the land and its resources. These radicals speak of an AmeriKKKan Empire that is ruining the world and that the United States is a country that needs to be brought down to size. Oh, isn’t America the nation that saved Europe three times in the last century? You remember, World War I, World War II, and the Cold War. Thank you, Ronald Reagan for that last one.

And America also rescued Asia in World War II.

Even if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency this fall–I certainly hope she doesn’t–she likely won’t govern as an anti-American leftist. To some extent the America-hating radicals will be justifiably marginalized.

The sestercentennial is coming. Let freedom ring!

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.


By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

That is the portion of the Declaration of Independence that Louisiana’s schoolchildren in fourth through sixth grades will now be required to recite daily at the beginning of school.

Despite the somewhat incoherent objections of Rep. Barbara Norton, the bill to recite from the Declaration was revived last week and has now passed the Louisiana House with a 70-23 vote.  It now heads to the state Senate.

Most schools in Louisiana still recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily, to my knowledge and experience, and now this mandate will require the recitation of this passage from the Declaration.  I have no problem with it, personally, however I can see objections on the grounds that it is a mandate.  As educators, we are drowning in mandates.  Teachers want the government out of their classrooms and be allowed to teach their content material.  I get that.

I see both sides of this one and perhaps leaving this optional, as the Pledge is, is the correct compromise.

On the grounds of content, however, I have no objection whatsoever.

You can see where this becomes a slippery slope, however.  Everyone wants to add their two cents:

Before the legislation passed, Rep. Ed Price, D-Gonzales, tried to get an amendment attached to the bill requiring that students also recite a portion of King’s “I have a Dream” in addition to that section of the Declaration of Independence. The House shot Price’s amendment down on a 45-51 vote.

Other amendments to have students recite the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution — which abolished slavery — and a speech from the women’s suffrage movement had also been drafted. But the Legislature voted to block those proposals from consideration on a 58-38 vote. So they weren’t discussed with the whole chamber.

Soon, the whole morning would be filled with rote recitation.

While I love the language of the Declaration, I think the best compromise is to leave this optional, leave it to the history and civics classes, and if a mandate is required to make the legislators feel useful and necessary, then leave the Founding documents in the language arts curriculum as part of the Common Core mandate.  We already have several required documents there.

The regular session ends today, so it is unlikely the bill will be addressed before the close of session, but I doubt we’ve heard the last of it.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I was travelling last week visiting family in Iowa when State Representative Barbara Norton (D-SHV) made national news.  There I was, enjoying my hearty Midwest breakfast at the Sale Barn Café in Lamoni, Iowa, when Rep. Barbara Norton pops up on my Facebook feed declaring the Declaration of Independence a racist document.

We’ve had experience with Rep. Norton here in Louisiana: she once introduced her godson, Hurricane Chris, to the floor of the Louisiana legislature to sing his song “Halle Berry She’s Fine,” a song filled with racial slurs and sexual innuendo which, thankfully, he sanitized for his legislative performance.  The incident made for hilarious blog fodder for weeks.

Louisiana State Representative Barbara Norton (D)

What has raised Rep. Norton’s ire is a proposed bill by Rep. Valarie Hodges that would have required school children to study the Declaration of Independence.  That seems fairly non-controversial, I would think, however Rep. Norton disagrees.  You have to watch the video to fully appreciate her objections, really, but the gist of her argument is this:

“I’m not really sure what your intent is but one thing I do know is that all men are not created equal. When I think back in 1776, July 4th, African Americans were slaves, and for you to…bring a bill to request that our children will recite the Declaration, I think it’s a little bit unfair to us, to ask those children to recite something that’s not the truth….for you to ask our children to repeat the Declaration stating that our mens [sic] are free, I think that’s unfair. In 1776, Dr. King was not even born….African Americans were in slavery, so since they were in slavery, in the Declaration of Independence say we were all created equal – we were not created equal because in 1776 July the 4th, I nor you nor any of us were born nor was Dr. King born, so we were in slavery and to have our children to repeat, to repeat, again and again documents that was not even validated I don’t that that’s fair because we are teaching them a lie…”

There are so many things to say about this.  I’m lost in trying to follow her logic.  Does this mean all of the Founding documents are now invalid because Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not yet born?  Does she realize that Dr. King often quoted the Founding documents?  Does she realize the difference between “created equal” and equal opportunity?  Is she saying that her ancestors were actually less, by creation?  And all nonsense aside, does this state Representative actually advocate NOT teaching the Founding documents of our country in school?  It is astounding.

What’s even more astounding is that she was re-elected to her office.

As I sat over my breakfast in Iowa listening to this nonsense, I was briefly embarrassed to be from Louisiana.  Soon Fox News picked up the video and it was all over the television.  It was a low moment, but there are so many other redeeming qualities about Louisiana despite Rep. Norton – don’t hold it against us.

We have Mardi Gras, great weather, lush landscapes, kind and welcoming people, and crawfish!

And I think a crawfish has more sense than Rep. Norton.

For the record, as a school teacher myself, I fully advocate teaching the Founding documents and as much as I loathe Common Core, the Founding documents are prevalent throughout the Common Core curriculum.  From a language standpoint, they are beautifully written.  The historic standpoint speaks for itself.

On local news last night, I saw an interview with Rep. Norton where she was asked about her statements on the floor and she attempted to clarify by saying that she doesn’t think we should “mandate” our teachers to teach anything – we should leave them alone.

Well, okay then.


Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.