In a battle between two ideas… the idea that wins is the one with the most fearless heretic behind it. Seth Godin, Tribes
I recently completed The Power of Starting Something Stupid by Richie Norton with Natalie Norton. As the authors state in the subtitle, starting something stupid is a great way to crush fear, make dreams happen, and live without regret.
This July, I’m reminded of another stupid idea. In the years leading up to 1776, a group of thinkers in the British Colonies and others throughout the west were re-thinking (shifting, even hacking) government. Up until that time, governments were somewhere on a continuum that began with powerful tyrants and ended with benevolent monarchs. The British Parliament received its power from the crown. All power came from the top. Structure varied little beyond the personality and behavior of the monarch. Leadership was a birthright. The benefits and the power of the position were inherited at best or usurped at worst. All government was a situation where the few constrained, controlled, and confined the many.
But on July 4, 1776 government on the planet changed forever. The change wasn’t fully implemented until the Constitution of the United States was drafted in 1787 and ratified in 1789. The change was underway. The “Representatives of the United States of America” separated themselves from the “British Crown” and set about both completing the separation and establishing their own government.
The stupid idea was set forth in the Declaration. “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” and “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.” The words “these ends” refer to the “unalienable Rights” mentioned earlier in the paragraph.
A mutual commitment to the idea that people could self-govern changed the world. That commitment is alive today thanks to the thousands who gave their lives then and now in its defense.
Can you imagine making the decision to declare war? Can you imagine having to consider the consequences of your idea? Is your idea worth dying for? Have you ever had an idea worth dying for?
This week, let’s remember there are greater ideas and battles than our own. Great people make tremendous sacrifices every day to defend the idea of self-government. As individuals, may we remember to thank those who served, and sacrificed. May gratitude replace our sense of entitlement. And may we live in a way that honors the ideal of self-government.