This week, I read the Declaration of Independence.
Not just the famous parts, but the whole darn thing.
OK, it was raining all week and there was not much else to do, but how many of us have ever read the amazing document that first demanded our independence? It was my first time.
In that document our Founding Fathers laid out the reasons they were going to put everything on the line and demand independence from England.
It is so important to keep in mind that the men who signed this famous explanation of why independence was necessary were not a bunch of rag-tag revolutionaries.
The men who gathered in Philadelphia to create the document were the elite of society. Most were wealthy and well-educated. They were large landowners and business people.
They had everything to lose if their bid for independence failed.
Many of their fellow elite remained loyal to England and King George and were aghast at the behavior of those who signed the Declaration.
These first patriots risked everything because they believed in the basic right of self-determination.
Many of them did lose everything.
In fact, nine of the 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence died during the Revolutionary War. Five more were imprisoned.
Twelve had their homes burned to the ground by the British. Seventeen others lost all of their property.
These men and their families suffered greatly in their effort to create a new nation of laws.
By the standards of today, contradictions are evident. Women could not vote and blacks were enslaved. However, these courageous Founding Fathers were dealing with the norms of 1776, not the standards of 2021.
They took a giant step toward creating a government that could constantly re-invent itself. As time has gone on, we have continually amended our constitution to improve the way our experiment in self-government works.
The political divisions we have today are part of that process. Citizens disagree and argue the details of how we should change. We hold elections and the majority of voters get to make the decision.
We do not storm the capitol building and try to create a violent insurrection because we are unhappy about how the majority of Americans voted.
We protest. We complain. Then we regroup for the next election.
Since our nation was founded, more than 1.3 million members of the Armed Forces have died protecting our country. Presidents Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, James Garfield and William McKinley did the same.
No better process has ever been established, and that is why we have been around for more than 244 years.
The violent extremists who tried to overthrow our government are outliers to all who love our country. Regardless of political party, no true American could ever condone abolishing the process that has produced our form of self-government.
The beauty of our system is that the majority can continually amend it. That has happened 27 times because our values, beliefs and standards have changed.
Frustration with our government has erupted many times over those 244 years because the wheels of the institutions move slowly. When you read the original documents, it becomes clear that our Founding Fathers wanted the process of government change to move at a slow pace.
That is one of the reasons why we have three branches of government. It causes frustration to many who want things to move quickly. Nevertheless, it has been that structure that creates the time to digest what might come from proposed reforms.
Flaws are inherent to any system of government. The beauty of our form of self-government is that the system includes the process to make changes.
Our Founding Fathers had their act together. If you doubt me, go back and read their original work.
Gerry Mulligan is the publisher of the Chronicle. Email him at email@example.com.