“One lazy man is a disgrace, two is a law firm, and three is a congress.”~ John Adams in the musical, 1776
Although its follies and problems measure up to its potential and stature, the United States is the best and greatest country the world has ever had. The signing of the Declaration of Independence is worthy of celebration, if only to remind us of how it came about, its vision of America, and our role in keeping its ideals alive.
I want to recommend two things for you to watch. One may change your mind, the other your life. The first is a talk by John Perkins, author of Hoodwinked: An Economic Hit Man Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded–and What We Need to Do to Remake Them. (You can watch it at http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/Hoodwi ) Perkins says that despite corporate bribes and paralyzing partisanship, we, as citizens, can determine what happens in this country.
America is a centrist country, but the public usually hears more from the ends of the political spectrum rather than the middle. Perkins asked his audience to do one thing every day to make the world better, an idea as powerful as it is simple. More than ever before, writers have the opportunity, not just to make a living, but to make a difference. It’s easier than ever for the right idea and the right book to change the world, and the Internet enables you reach the world with your fingertips.
Perkins said that when Rachel Carson sat down at her small desk in her Pennsylvania home to write about how DDT was harming the planet, she had no idea that she would write The Silent Spring, a bestseller that became a classic that liberated the world from DDT and started the international environmental movement.
Whether you write fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, your passion and your gift for portraying the challenges we face and proposing solutions can make a difference. It’s impossible for you to know how big a difference you can make, but it’s much greater than you think.
How about writing and signing you own declaration of independence from whatever is keeping you from becoming the best, most creative and productive person that you were born to be and that only you can be? Free yourself from beliefs, people, and activities that waste your resources but don’t help you achieve your goals. That will be something for you to celebrate every day.
A revolution won is a revolution lost. When people believe there’s nothing more to fight for and just enjoy the fruits of victory, they begin to lose the victory. The only way to win a revolution is to keep striving to keep its ideals alive, especially at a time of political impasse, accelerating change, and growing urgency about the problems we face. The planet has only one hyper-connected economy and only one family: the human family. As Benjamin Franklin warned, we have to hang together, or we will surely hang separately.
America can only work if we do what we can and must to keep the vision of the Declaration of Independence alive and strive to fulfill its dream of a free, independent, thriving country, eager to reach the compromises needed to balance contrary beliefs.
That is one lesson from 1776, a musical that Elizabeth and I watch to help celebrate the holiday. 1776 offers timeless lessons we avoid at our peril. It shows how divided and ineffective Congress was at its birth, how one vote made the difference, and how it took a disastrous compromise on slavery to convince the South to sign the Declaration.
No matter where you are in your life or your writing career, remember Anne Frank’s words: “It’s never too late to start doing the right thing.”
Michael Larsen is an author, co-owner of Larsen Pomada Literary Agency and two of the west coast’s best writing conferences: The 5th San Francisco Writing for Change Conference / Changing the World One Book at a Time, which takes place on October, 12th, 2013 ( www.sfwritingforchange.org ) and The 11th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community which takes place on February 13-16, 2014 (www.sfwriters.org ) Michael and wife, Elizabeth Pomada have been helping writers launch careers since 1972. Visit Mike’s blog and Facebook page: http://sfwriters.info/blog @SFWC / www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoWritersConference