We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident
A Letter to President Trump
On this July 4 I am in Poland, where President Andrzej Duda has just decapitated the judiciary, and Poles are, as I write, in the streets to protest the continuing theft of their democracy. Perhaps because of this, a stirring performance of Krzysztof Penderecki’s “Polish Requiem” I attended at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Kraków last night, a piece originally commissioned by Solidarity in 1980, received a sustained and rousing 30-minute applause.
The ties between Poland and the United States are long and enduring, not least of which because of the many thousands of Poles who have emigrated to the United States for the last four centuries. One of these was Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kościuszko a military engineer, scholar and ardent freedom fighter, who, in 1776, was appointed a colonel in the Continental Army by George Washington. Rising to the rank of brigadier general, he was integral to the liberation of the original thirteen colonies from British tyranny.
With apologies to, and corrections of, the Founding Fathers, and on the 232 anniversary of the American colonies’ Declaration of Independence from the British Empire, I offer this revision of their words in honor of Kościuszko and in support of democracy and human rights everywhere.
Dear President Trump,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for the people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them to their President, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people, of all races, genders, sexualities, nationalities, democratic beliefs and religions, are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Us, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to elect a new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shewn, that mankind is more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been our patient sufferance; and such is now the necessity which constrains us to remove you and your Party from power. The history of your Presidency 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.
You have done political business at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of our public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing legislators and diplomats into compliance with your measures and billing your own company.
You have insulted Democrats, and even members of your own Republican administration, repeatedly, for opposing with firmness your invasions on the rights of the people.
You have threatened our Free Press, and called legitimate coverage of your regime #FakeNews.
You have tweeted covfefe.
Your supporters have obstructed and delayed elections when vacancies occur.
You have obstructed the Administration of Justice and insulted our Judges.
You have sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and peaceful immigrants among us.
You have kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies of Immigration Control Officers without the Consent of our legislatures, and sought to Punish cities and states that offer sanctuary to immigrants.
You have refused to be candid about connections between your campaign and a jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws, giving your tacit Assent to their Acts of cybercrime.
You have impeded our Trade with all parts of the world, and raised costs for the American people, with tariffs.
You have undermined the judiciary, not just by feckless appointments, but by mocking your own Attorney General with nicknames like Mister Magoo and Mr. Peepers.
You have admitted to grabbing women by the p***y.
You have fundamentally altered the Forms of our Governments by refusing to staff the civil service, mischaracterizing those who attempt to serve the People as an unpatriotic “deep state.”
You have claimed political power so absolute that if convicted of crimes, you could pardon yourself.
You have declared yourself invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever with Executive Orders.
You have abdicated Government here, by militarizing local and state police.
You have excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and have endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless alt-right, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A President whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to you and our Republican brethren. We have warned you from time to time of attempts by your legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded you of our human rights. We have appealed to your native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured you by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. You have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold you, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That all Americans, and all who cross these borders, ought to be Free and Independent; that we are Absolved from all Allegiance to Donald Trump, his family and his political allies, and that all political connection between us, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as a Free and Independent People, we have full Power to end your unjust rule of this country by disrupting your policies at every turn, supporting a full and open judicial inquiry into your Presidency, and voting you and your minions out of office. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
You, sir, are not a President, but a Tyrant. We will see you, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan on election day.
Claire Potter is professor of history at The New School, and Executive Editor of Public Seminar. You can follow her on Twitter.