Staff Columnist

How about a Declaration of Civility instead?

A copy of the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson is displayed at the New York Public Library, June 26, 2013. The New York Public Library will display original copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights together for the first time July 1- 3 in honor of Independence Day. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES - Tags: EDUCATION ENTERTAINMENT) - RTX112BE
A copy of the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson is displayed at the New York Public Library, June 26, 2013. The New York Public Library will display original copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights together for the first time July 1- 3 in honor of Independence Day. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES - Tags: EDUCATION ENTERTAINMENT) - RTX112BE

Warning: My annual holiday dose of satire.

The presiding officer bangs a gavel to bring the Second Continental Congress into order on a hot afternoon in early July 1776.

“Gentlemen, let us resume our review of this Declaration of Independence drafted by Mr. Jefferson and his fellow committee members. It’s enormously important we each understand its language, intent and implications before a fateful final vote.

“Mr. Secretary, where did we leave off?”

“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world …”

“Strong, very strong, indeed. Any objections?”

“Actually, I have some objections, Mr. President.”

“The chair recognizes the gentleman from Pennsylvania, Silas Middling.”

“That’s central most middle Pennsylvania, Mr. President. I build fences, sir, sturdy ones you can comfortably sit upon.”

“Of course. What is your objection?”

“Well, I gotta tell you, I have a problem with a lot of the language used by Mr. Jefferson. It’s very tough, pointed and in-your-face, if you know what I mean. All this talk of tyrants, despotism, usurpations, invasions and convulsions seems unduly harsh. Frankly, it’s shocked the curl out of my wig.

“I sense a definite coarsening of the national dialogue. I worry we’re witnessing the death of civility. Maybe we could tone it down and pursue some meaningful dialogue instead of jumping straight to all these musket-based solutions.”

“With all due respect Mr. Middling, do you not recall the litany of crimes perpetrated against these colonies by the tyrant king? Do you forget the Boston Massacre, with patriot blood flowing in the street?”

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“Sure, sure. But behind all of those fixed bayonets, I firmly believe there still are some reasonable moderates in the British army we can work with. It’s true, the king has provided less-than-optimal leadership, and I’m all for an honest, frank discussion of issues. But I really, think we can disagree without being disagreeable. Enough with all the counterproductive labeling. Let’s stop dumping tea into harbors and try a cup of kindness.”

“But Mr. Middling, what of the crown’s efforts to halt immigration, and his refusal to assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers?”

“Well, Mr. President, all I can say is coronations have consequences.”

“Swarms of officers harassing our people? Quartering of troops among us, Mr. Middling?”

“Weren’t they really just gaggles of unexpected houseguests, Mr. President?”

“What of the king’s edicts cutting off our trade with the world, Middling?”

“We can send a strongly worded letter.”

“But, Mr. Middling, it says right here, he has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns and destroyed the lives of our people! He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny!”

“OK, Mr. President, I feel the passion. Passion is good. But where do these inflamed passions lead us? Soon, dare I say, we may be unable even to take a supper in peace without being interrupted by an incessant clamor for freedom, rights and liberty. It’s a recipe for indigestion, I tell you.”

“Mr. Middling, are you somehow unaware of the ongoing armed insurrection determined to smash the shackles of despotic rule?”

“See, that’s what I mean, Mr. President. So divisive. Not constructive. I think we should keep all options on the table for conflict resolution. You say jump to independence. I say we could form a task force, hear from all sides and issue an authoritative white parchment.

“I say give me civility or give me death! Who’s with me?”

An awkward silence fills the room before the presiding officer speaks. “I’m afraid there’s not much appetite for your Middling solutions.”

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“OK, Mr. President. I get it. Can we at least send along a nice gift basket with the Declaration? Maybe with a few bottles of Jefferson’s wine, perhaps some fruit and cheese. Oh, and maybe Mr. Baker could fashion a festive cake to sweeten the king’s disposition.”

“Mr. Baker?”

“I‘d rather die than bake a cake for the brutish despot.” Cheers erupt.

“Oh, boy, here come the fireworks.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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