In my Impromptus today, I quote an Egyptian, who was speaking at a conference. Egypt is an old country, the United States a young one. This man was cackling about his own country’s future versus the American future. “We are connected by blood,” he said. “They are connected by a piece of paper.”
I’m not sure whether he was talking about the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. But, either way, he had a point. As I note in my column, this country has always been an experiment. Whether it will work out, who knows? But it has been a great light in the world for a considerable time.
I got a note from Sarah Telle, a law student and writer. “I was struck by the comment about our being bound by a piece of paper,” she says. She continues,
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, partially because I like thinking about things like this and partially because the fiftieth anniversary of my favorite musical occurred last week.
My favorite musical is 1776. It has been since I was a young child.
Have you ever had the chance to see it? I once saw it in Ford’s Theatre. At one point the Founding Fathers are talking about slavery and John Adams says, If we don’t deal with it now, we will have to deal with it later. Every eye in the house, including the actors’, could not help but glance at the box where Lincoln was shot.
The Egyptian’s comment made me think specifically about the last song in the musical — “Is Anybody There?” It is sung by Adams as he sits alone in Independence Hall wondering if the Declaration will become a reality. Again and again he asks, “Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Does anybody see what I see?”
These questions mattered in the year 1776, and they matter in 2019. My thought is that as long as those questions are still being asked and answered by Americans, the paper that binds us — both of them, but mostly the first — is just as strong as, if not stronger than, blood. Come what may.