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Facts submitted to a candid world
On the opinions of mankind, the struggle to maintain independence today, and the greatness of the Fourth of July
Since America's last celebration of independence, we have been witnesses to a year of nonstop struggle for the independence of Ukraine, a nation most Americans have come to recognize as an ally. Ukrainian people have shed blood and lost thousands of lives. Cities have been obliterated and farmlands have been flooded. Worries are revived every day that a catastrophic nuclear incident could occur, by accident or by design.
■ The United States wasn't the first nation to declare independence, but our declaration was special in a landmark way: It took the time to treat the rest of the world not as passive observers, but as reasonable people capable of rationally evaluating our cause. A "decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation," wrote Thomas Jefferson.
■ Ukraine doesn't have to declare its independence; it has been legally independent for more than three decades. But its public diplomacy to the rest of the world has gone to some lengths to explain why that independence is valid and why it is worth preserving.
■ The sublime blessing of America's independence is that it hasn't been seriously challenged in more than two centuries. We haven't needed to explain to anyone but ourselves why we should keep the republic. But we should heed the case for Ukraine as we remember that independence isn't merely an abstraction, and it isn't perpetually guaranteed, even by our own fortuitous circumstances.
■ Threats may come from without or from within. That we don't face a rapacious neighbor shouldn't keep us from realizing just how much others all over the world are willing to sacrifice today in search of the preservation of something we Americans get to treat as a job finished long ago. As Jefferson wrote, "let Facts be submitted to a candid world" -- and let us not forget our duty to listen, just as our predecessors sought to be heard.