Defending the Declaration of Independence

An imagined conversation between two guys in a coffee bar on July 5th:

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Person A notices Person B sitting at a small, round table alone, an empty chair on the table’s opposite side.

“Excuse me, but would you mind sharing the table?”

“No,” says B, “not at all. Please, sit.”

A does so, and B offers half his newspaper. A sips and begins to read. Soon A’s feet begin to sandpaper the floor tiles. He mutters softly. B looks up from the business section of his paper, his expression hinting at amusement.

“You found the NPR article, I guess.”

A nods. “What a bunch of dweebs,” he says.

“NPR or the ones who called in?”

“Tweeting the Declaration of Independence has to be the most moronic idea—”

“I kind of liked their doing that,” says B. “Reaching out to people, you know?”

A folds the paper, shoves it across the tiny table, almost upsetting B’s latte. “A hundred forty characters at a time? Not even a whole sentence? And this is supposed to inspire these boobs…to do what, to give twenty seconds of attention to their country on the Fourth of July?”

B scowls now. “Well, tweeting may not be your cup of tea—”

“I could care less who tweets and why,” A says, voice rising. “but don’t you see? You can’t give context in a tweet!” He glances around. Other conversations have ceased. Everyone is listening. “No one even recognized those lines. The ones who called in thought NPR had turned the network over to a bunch of commies!”

B looked to the skylight overhead. “I might have reached the same conclusion, you know? Some of those statements were over the top.”

“They were declaring independence from the biggest empire the world had yet seen,” says A. “They risked being hung, for crying out loud!”

A woman stands nearby, a one year-old on her hip. The baby cries. She lifts the little girl  to her chest, whispers, “It’s okay, honey, the bad man can’t hurt you.”

The proprietor lifts his chin to someone just out side the bar’s glass door. A policemen enters, and the two huddle, both glancing in A and B’s direction. The policeman turns toward them, adjusts his uniform shirt’s creases, and approaches. “Sir,” he says to A, “you’re disturbing the other customers. If you can’t pipe down, I’ll have to ask you to leave.”

“I’m defending the Declaration of Independence,” says A. “You’re going to toss me for that?”

“That’s it,” the cop says. “We can do this one of two ways. I can toss you out, or you can leave under your own power.”

“All right, all right,” mumbles A. He rises and heads for the door.

The rest of the customers applaud. A stops at the door, turns, shakes his head. “My God,” he says, a little too loudly, “we’ve lost our way.”

 

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