I’m a high school history teacher and the proud owner of a T-shirt featuring the Declaration of Independence, so I was intrigued that The Gazette printed the Declaration in its entirety on July Fourth. It’s important for Americans to read and fully appreciate the boldness of the document and its looming presence in American culture/mythology. However, reading this version, I was disillusioned by a missed opportunity and an oversight.
I cringed at the phrase, “merciless Indian Savages,” which should have only been printed with an asterisk clarifying its offensiveness. This is the original text of the Declaration, and 1776 was a different time, but on a day following protest by Indigenous communities at the further desecration of their sacred land in South Dakota, and in light of the ongoing oppression of Indigenous communities across the nation, the language has an immediacy that we cannot be complicit in.
Overall, the printing of the Declaration should have been accompanied by an analysis piece emphasizing its relevance to the current Black Lives Matter movement and the cultural reckoning in America’s midst. The Gazette acknowledged that people are still fighting for freedom in their July 3 kids section piece, but failed to do so for all readers on the fourth. In 1776, American people decided they’d had enough, and moved to abolish their current system of government, making a bold promise of equality and freedom. In 2020, American people are protesting in hopes of finally realizing that promise, and we must acknowledge that struggle.