America has a rich, long history of inspiring speeches and eloquently written documents. As I sat here contemplating this history, it became apparent to me that most of those words are out of sync with the values of our country today. We need to update them to reflect the enlightened views of modern America. After all, the coronavirus should teach us that these ideas are far too risky to let stand the way we learned them as kids. They often even led to people dying!
Let’s start by updating a short one so you get the idea. Some of you probably know the state motto of New Hampshire. It actually comes from a quote by Revolutionary War General John Stark: “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.” Obviously, that concept is terribly dangerous, but we can fix it. Instead, “Live free and you’ll die.” With just a slight, barely noticeable adjustment, New Hampshire license plates go from being a reckless endangerment to a somber warning.
Patrick Henry’s famous words are obsolete and need an update. Possibly, “Give me a mask or give me death!”
If you aren’t an expert on American history, you might not even notice some of the subtle changes. See if you catch this one from the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their government with certain Rights that may only be rescinded if exercising those Rights carries any risk, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
A lot of that crazy fringe of people who still want to do things have been using a famous quote by Patrick Henry. They fail to point out that life expectancy back in that era was only about 38 years, so people wouldn’t have lived to be old enough to die of coronavirus anyway. That means his words are obsolete and need an update. Possibly, “Give me a mask or give me death!” It now becomes a practical health advisory instead of a dangerous demand for freedom.
Here’s one for the kids to recite before they watch school on the computer: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with social distancing and unemployment benefits for all.” And while we’re on things that you stand up for unless you’re a washed-up quarterback, we also have to change the last line of our national anthem. Actually, sports aren’t allowed anymore, so we don’t need to worry about that.
The next one comes with some challenges. Did you know that the inscription on the Liberty Bell comes from the Bible? It currently reads, “PROCLAIM LIBERTY THROUGHOUT ALL THE LAND UNTO ALL THE INHABITANTS THEREOF LEV. XXV. v X.” Coming up with the rewrite is easy enough. “PROCLAIM STAY-AT-HOME ORDERS THROUGHOUT ALL THE LAND UNTO ALL THE INHABITANTS THEREOF.”
In fact, since we obviously have to change the name of the bell, we might as well call it the Stay-at-Home Bell and people can ring miniature replicas to report their neighbors who are playing at the park.
Now, the hard part. You might think the difficulty would be telling millions of Americans that their Bibles are wrong, but that has been a favorite pastime of Democrats in our country for years now. The real problem is figuring out how to change the inscription on a 267-year-old copper bell that has already been cracked once. Fortunately, figuring stuff out is only for the scientists now. Maybe Dr. Fauci can handle it.
This brings us to probably the two most famous speeches in American history. The first one is a big problem. I don’t think Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech can be salvaged. He speaks far too much about freedom ringing. If we censor out all of that unsafe talk about freedom, the speech would sound like The Wolf of Wall Street edited for network television. It just cannot be done. I think the whole thing has to be stricken from the record.
The other one can be rewritten, and it was a short speech, so we can do the whole thing. Just picture the Great Emancipator, President Lincoln, when he first said these words at the battlefield in Gettysburg:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived to protect us from ourselves, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met, six feet apart, on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live safely hidden in their homes. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under the experts, shall have a new birth of dependence — and that government instructing the people, monitoring the people, and regulating the people, shall not perish from the earth.
I will leave you with this one. For those of you who are not sufficiently scared by coronavirus simply because the odds of dying from it are incredibly small, you need to remember what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in his first inaugural address: “The only thing we have to fear is being around people!”
Steven Connally has a degree in political science from Cal State University Long Beach. He currently resides in Orange County, California, where he teaches and coaches baseball.