Dear President Trump,
The Poem-a-Day this morning is by Todd Fredson and is entitled [Erratum: Found Ecology Piece], the brackets being part of the title (you can read it here if you want: https://poets.org/poem-a-day/ for today’s date). It’s a short poem and seems simple enough, but it’s had me thinking hard all day. It’s nominally about how our ability to make edits to our writing has changed dramatically such that we can now hit the backspace key or highlight a whole swath of words and just press delete and be done with the offending or less-than bits.
He initially compares the ease of computer editing to the effortful deal involved with using an eraser to erase penciled marks. I don’t remember doing a lot of pencil erasing as a kid, but the poem lead me to recall the grief associated with errors at the end of a manually typed term paper page. You probably didn’t ever have to type your own papers and frankly, I’d be surprised if you ever actually wrote your own papers so I bet you have no experience with white-out or those little correct-o strips that were marginally better than the gloppy white-out stuff. Trust me, they were both a pain in the ass.
Fredson then reflects on the entirely different timescale over which rain wears away gouges in stone.
And it was this that led me to the engraving of the Declaration of Independence and how changing it has been and still is an incredibly long-term project. I can easily cut and paste the words from a website into a document and then make the fixes I want to make, for example switching “men” to “people”. Really, anyone with a computer can lift any words or passages that are available online and make adjustments to them of any sort – that’s a no brainer. But changing something that’s etched in copperplate or in stone is clearly another matter.
Before going any further with this train of thought, I need to tell you that in reading up on the Declaration of Independence engraving, I learned that it was made 47 years after the original handwritten version was signed in 1776. A man named William Stone painstakingly carved the original (and I think he must have done it backwards for the printed sheets to come out right) into copperplate. I think one of the 200 parchment copies made from the plate is displayed next to the original handwritten copy of the Declaration, but I’m having a hard time piecing together what’s where from the National Archives website.
Anyway, all this got me thinking about how tough it is to change things that are etched into a society or a culture and what it might take to get general agreement that a new copperplate of the Declaration of Independence that uses inclusive language (and ditches the deity) be made. I’m not interested in obliterating our history and so don’t want to mothball the original(s), but I am interested in decisive, corrective action that boldly asserts that all people are created equal and have equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And personally, I think this needs to happen by improving what we are all used to and literally, physically centering an updated version between the old handwritten one and the old Stone copperplate copy.
Obviously me thinking all this and proposing it to you isn’t going to make it happen. I’m not sure what all needs to go down before we get to this point in our collective reality, but I think imaging that it’s possible is a good start. So I’m putting you on notice that I do think it’s possible to not only create an America that is truly America to everyone, but it’s also possible that we (the big, expansive we of all of us) will one day decide that we can and should edit our guiding documents to reflect our revolutionary evolution.
May we all be safe while we sort ourselves out.
May we be willing to make the necessary changes.
May we build a truly healthy, strong democracy.
May we reset around universal respect, kindness, and peace.