Could you sign?

July 04, 2003 12:00 am

Amidst the burgers and the kabooms that mark the celebration of the Fourth of July, stop and try to imagine an action of this magnitude:

At a convention called in Boise, Idaho, captains of industry, civic leaders and major landholders from 13 Western states sign a boldly-worded document.

In an artfully argued dissertation on the West's dissatisfactions with the federal government of the United State over land management, public health policy and other issues, the document declares the West's independence.

The move defies a president, thousands of miles away across an ocean of prairie.

And the signers dare to break apart a nation with a proud and storied history.

Could you sign your John Hancock to such a document?

Hancock and 55 others did.

The Declaration of Independence turned the British empire on its ear, defying the authority of a king to rule and of an empire to expand without allowing the governed a voice in government.

Just as a move seceding from the United States would brand Western leaders as traitors, the Founding Fathers risked not only their fortunes but their lives by denying England's right to rule the American colonies.

Today, the Fourth of July is a time to celebrate freedom and revere sacrifice. The holiday is an essential part of the civic religion that reminds Americans about who were are.

Don't forget the courage of the founders, however, in effecting a revolution not only against England, but the course of human history.

Such a document as the Declaration of Independence may not be needed today, or in any of our lifetimes. But freedom demands we show the same courage as the founders to participate in self-governance and self-determination.