The Declaration of Independence: Our Mandate for Change


Three days ago, as a nation, we celebrated the 240th anniversary of the declaration of our independence. To reread the words committed to by the General Congress of the United States of America is to re-imagine a revolution. Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of our precious document, convincingly and eloquently established just how right it was for the colonies to “institute new government” and to absolve themselves from allegiance to the mastery of Great Britain.

As we approach the quadrennial fiasco of electing a new president (with special focus on the absurd candidacies of the two parties), the polarized congress, the Electoral College which virtually renders the vote of the American people inert, plus a myriad bullet list of the failures of our government to protect and foster our unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we should consider anew Mr. Jefferson’s second paragraph:

“That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” Sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it? It was the conclusion of the representatives of the thirteen colonies that the time had come not to suffer the evils any longer.


Thomas Jefferson, in fact all of the founding fathers, would wither in shame at how we have allowed our government to evolve into a monstrous and misshapen facsimile of the original leadership that came together to throw off the bonds of Great Britain, by pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. Special interest groups and the greed of manipulative, unprincipled business leaders have warped the vision of those brave souls who stood against impossible odds to create this country. Yes, we as a people in concert with a nascent government allowed unspeakable atrocities: the decimation and annihilation of the Native American peoples and African slavery for hundreds of years, it is part of our national historical disgrace. We cannot change our past, but we must affect our future. We must consider that the time has come to echo the words of Jefferson, that it is our right to dismantle the current and ineffective system of government.

A decade after the declaration, Jefferson’s declaration was reverberated by the words he used in a letter. He wrote:

“God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion [reference is made here to Shay’s Rebellion over economic policy, aggressive tax and debt collection, and political corruption]. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?”

I cannot think of a time more worthy of a call to action based on those words than now.

How do you feel?



Four words, a construct of social interplay designed to initiate an exchange between two people. It’s up there with Good morning, How’s it going, and Hey there. It’s a question asked and a question answered with equally uninformative phrases like: Doing good, not bad, or I’m okay. Many add the required: how about you, for which round two concludes in the same innocuous manner.

Such lackluster exchanges point to a deficiency in emphasis and genuineness. As a whole, we’re good at the former and not so much the latter. How do you feel? If you stop to consider the question, it’s not a greeting, but an invitation. If you apply emphasis on the last word, how do you FEEL, the asker is being genuine, as if they really want to know. It’s then incumbent on the askee to be honest. That’s usually where the bond crumbles. How often do you pose the question, just to break the ice in greeting, really hoping that you get one of the standard answers from the list? After all, who wants to be the recipient of someone capable of grabbing your ear for an hour on the subject? How often do you avoid the answer because you simply believe the other person is just being polite, or you don’t feel comfortable bearing your soul, or you simply haven’t taken inventory of the real answers? You could ask yourself the question to step away from being two-dimensional, but let’s face it; we’re not really adept at being honest with ourselves either.

There’s a reason therapists belabor their patients with this question. Feelings, something that humans try to usurp as being one of the hallmarks that set our species apart (a blatant fallacy) are what drive us. A feeling is the steering wheel that turns us in the direction of action. I suspect many of our actions derive from a superficial sense of feelings we haven’t adequately analyzed, for if we did, would we truly be racist, or homophobic, or hateful? How can we expect the world to behave better if we individually act from a perspective of inattentiveness to our own feelings? Feeling is the one tool that drives empathy, and empathy breeds tolerance and acceptance. To ignore feeling opens a channel to destruction and hate. If Omar Mateen had stopped to consider the intrinsic value of seeing two men kissing, that the simple expression of love was of far more worth than hate and murder, he would have been able to override the nonsensical and bombastic canon all religions foist on their followers and seen the truth of that moment. He would never have pulled the trigger.

We’ve become too used to spouting words devoid of genuineness. The other morning, watching news coverage on the Pulse Nightclub shootings, the anchor opened the stage to a local journalist on the scene. As the line of communications opened, the journalist began by saying, “Good Morning”. My only thought was, no, it’s really not. The journalist wasn’t trying to be insensitive; he was using a salutation that was simply polite, even though it was horribly inappropriate to the moment. It speaks to the notion that we do so many things by rote.

The element of global danger is escalating at the speed of sound. Many hear the nauseating rhetoric of Donald Trump (the man who would set our society firmly on a path to the dark ages) and react to his hateful invective because on the surface he offers a solution to the issues that strike at the heart of what angers us. He garners support on the principal of mob mentality. The polls suggest an uncomfortably titanic number of people are stupid enough to fall for it. News reports of death and devastation abound everywhere; the United States is not the only target and is frequently the aggressor of the same destruction we rally against. We emphasize our thoughts and reactions from the standpoint of anger and hatred, but fail to infuse our thinking with intelligence. We employ the inelegant methods of a club-wielding troll. We do need to act. We do need to consider how best to dial back the ability of those who seek to do harm. We do need to change the way the country operates. Politicians are, for the most part, useless individuals at best, malcontent enablers at worst. They refuse to act on issues based on truth, honesty, and necessity; instead, they tout party lines, willfully ignorant – to our detriment. Most frightening to consider is that our elected officials lack the essential aptitude needed to deepen the quality of our country. They stand in positions to serve with bought and paid-for elections and by the grace of great campaign managers. So, they serve the masters of finance and corporate greed selling out the American people like the good puppets they are. We stand by and let it happen, time and again. Vote they say. That’s all well and good, but when the offerings are as useless as deciding what flavor of yogurt to have for breakfast, there is little opportunity for any significant change. Never has there been a time when it was more important to close the distance between what we feel and how we act. Not six months or a year from now, but RIGHT NOW.

Dig in, ask your friends, your family, people you work with: how do you FEEL. When someone asks you the same question, think hard on it. Tunnel down and figure it out, then tell them. Your challenge is to find the best method of delivery to effect a change. I’m a writer, the only tool in my arsenal is written expression. You must find your own way; don’t shirk on this responsibility. The only rule of the game is to consider all sides. Test yourself by asking if what you feel really makes sense. There was a common theme of apathy in movies and media in the 1970s; it clearly lingers in the 2000s. Don’t fall prey to that. I don’t care, nor is it important who originally coined the axiom, but it bears repeating: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. I’ve said it before, there is no cure for what ails us as a whole; there is a rising tide of terminally evil people. Sprinkling your dose of honesty and well-considered feelings on an expanding web of well-thinking and well-meaning people might abate the disease long enough that cooler heads prevail as we search for the elusive, and likely unattainable goal of peace and understanding.

So, how do you feel?

Suicide: On the Brink – What does it feel like?


Ten days ago, we reached the end of National Suicide Prevention Week, but the struggle continues.

There are a million reasons why someone sinks to the depths of clinical depression. Blend that with anxiety, and you have a disaster in the making every bit as potent as mixing bleach with ammonia. At any given moment, as you reflect on where you’ve been, there’s darkness. As you look forward, there is only more of the same. What’s behind + what’s ahead = hopelessness. Sometimes that sense of hopelessness, at that particular second of understanding, is enough to convince someone that suicide is not only possible, but desirable. Thoughts of family and friends, passions and daily joys strike against an impenetrable barrier and can’t relieve the mindset.

So, what does it feel like when you stand on that brink? Here’s an example.

Yesterday, as I stood looking up at the beauty of white clouds against a blue sky on a cool, breezy morning – a day that should have been joyous except for the fact I knew the moment would be fleeting before going to a dreaded job full of stress and anxiety – the thought occurred to me that I could actually end it. It would take only as long as receiving an injection and probably hurt just as little, but the pain would be gone. Imagine standing at a table. On it is a piece of your favorite chocolate, or a beautifully cooked steak, or a red velvet cupcake. All you have to do is pick it up and put it to your mouth; the joy of having that desire satiated is magnetic. Then imagine the inner strength it takes to talk yourself out of it. Ask anyone who has been on a diet for several weeks about confronting that temptation. How many resist the indulgence, how many say: well I’ve earned it, so I can treat myself just this once? Multiply that desire by a thousand and you can barely peek through the tiny keyhole of a suicidal individual’s mind at that moment. There is no fear of death – the one thing that keeps most everyone from doing something precipitous doesn’t exist. In fact, thoughts of suicide in that moment elicit an inner smile; peace floods your body with relief. Pulling back from that precipice is Herculean. That’s why 41,149 people killed themselves in 2013, one every 12.8 minutes in our country, and the rate has been climbing steadily since 2000.

I urge everyone to be sensitive to friends and family and co-workers. Watch for the signs. If you suffer from this, get help, see a therapist. If you’re reading this and you’re close to the brink, then go here: Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1-800-273-8255. Don’t try to go it alone.