I was walking in the woods. I ran into Thomas Jefferson. He was carrying a box, wrapped in a bow.
“Which state is this?” he asked.
Michigan, I said.
“Hmm, I don’t know that one.”
What’s in the box, Thomas?
“A present for the country. By my calculations, you are about to celebrate our 240th birthday.”
Yep, thanks to your Declaration of Independence.
“My finest work. I love the written word. I always said, ‘I cannot live without books.’ ”
I know. It’s a famous expression.
“What are the most popular books of this time?”
There’s one called “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
“About the British and their chains of iniquity?”
It’s got chains in it, yes.
“What else can you tell me about our nation today? How closely do you hold to our original ideals?”
Well, the revolution against British rule still holds. They have no say over us.
“As it should be.”
In fact, lately it’s the British who are revolting.
“Hmm. I doubt they’re using a tea party.”
No. But we still have one of those.
“A tea party? They throw goods off of ships?”
No. They mostly go on talk shows.
“What about the force behind our independence — no taxation without representation?”
Oh, good news there, Thomas. We don’t pay taxes to a foreign government.
We pay taxes to our government.
“A levy on your goods?”
That’s called a sales tax. We also pay federal income tax, state income tax, city income tax, Social Security tax, property tax …
“Tyranny! What evil force shackles you this way?”
Our elected officials.
“You elect them and they still levy such taxes?”
Yes. Why are you making that face?
“Government must rule with consent of the governed.”
Well, that works for lobbyists.
“What is a lobbyist?”
Hard to explain. You’ll be glad to know we still treasure your words “All men are created equal.”
“That pleases me.”
All women, too. And any man who identifies as a woman and any woman who identifies as a man.
“You do accept that we are endowed by the Creator—”
Ah-ah-ah. What do you mean by “Creator?”
“There is only one Creator.”
Shhhh! You’ll get in trouble saying that.
Our changing times
“What about the ‘unalienable rights’ part?”
Oh, we still believe that. Unless you come from certain countries or look dangerous wearing a hoodie.
“Hoodie? I don’t understand your references.”
Sorry. Things change. If it makes you feel better, we still cherish the right to bear arms.
“Good. A well-regulated militia is necessary for the security of a free state.”
We don’t use guns to hold off our government.
“Then who do you shoot?”
Mostly each other.
“I need to sit down…”
Yes, relax. It’s still a great country. Be proud.
“Really? What do Americans now think of when they hear the words ‘Independence Day?’ ”
To be honest? A movie.
“About the Founding Fathers?”
Actually, it’s about aliens attacking Earth.
“Aliens? You mean foreign soldiers?
More like little green creatures.
“Excuse me. I feel ill. I’ll take my leave.”
Wait, Thomas. The present. What’s in the box?
“An original copy of the Declaration. I thought the nation could use a fresh copy.”
“I think I need to add a few paragraphs …”
Contact Mitch Albom: firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Follow him on Twitter @mitchalbom.