When in the Course of Human Events



“When in the Course of Human Events” is that most popular opening phrase of the Declaration of Independence. Usually I have skipped over them coming to the good stuff about liberty and America. This year these few words caught my special attention.

The first word of the Declaration of Independence is “When”. It is not a theoretical, moral declaration but one that happens in a particular time and place. “When” is a temporal clause not a conditional one. It does not say “If in the Course of Human Events”. “When” means the present turmoils are something that is part of life. Major breakups, separating from your family of origin, leaving the old behind is something that regularly and normally occurs in the course of human events. Abuse happens, the reaction happens. Freedom needs to happen. Revolution needs to happen. That’s just how life is.

These words are part of the “Course of Human Events”. This declaration is not divinely inspired. It is a human document. People were hurt by people and react in human fashion: They express their pain, they state their case and they follow through. That’s what humans do. Action causes reaction. That’s just how life is.

This year the opening phrase of the Declaration of Independence reminds me that life goes on. This human, messed up life, just as it is.

Over the past few years I have reflected on this important document in other contexts:
2017 Brexit 1776? – Happy Independence Day!
2016 A decent respect to the opinions of mankind
2015 Obergefell v. Hodges
2014 Don’t Mess With Texas
2012 Declaration of Independence pushing for immigration


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