EDITORIAL: Even Declaration of Independence is not safe from our ugly political discourse

York Dispatch
  • NPR tweeted out the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July.
  • Many misinterpreted some of the passages as criticisms of Donald Trump.

Lots of folks these days are just itching for a political fight.

No matter the topic, the knee-jerk reaction from zealots on both sides of the spectrum is simple and quick — take immediate offense and swiftly bash the other side.

FILE - This undated file photo shows John Hancock's signature on the Declaration of Independence, which was formally signed by 56 members of Congress beginning Aug. 2, 1776. National Public Radio marked Independence Day on July 4th, 2017, by tweeting the entire declaration, but it seems some Twitter users didn’t recognize what they were reading. Some of the founders’ criticisms of King George III were met with angry responses from supporters of President Donald Trump, who seemed to believe the tweets were a reference to the current president. Others were under the impression NPR was trying to provoke Trump with the tweets. (AP Photo, File)

Facts be damned.

Even the Declaration of Independence — the very foundation on which our republic is built — is not safe.

That became apparent when National Public Radio marked the Fourth of July by tweeting the contents of the document, line for line.

Some Twitter users, it seems, didn’t recognize what they were reading and they didn’t make any effort to find out.

Instead, the ill-informed social media consumers decided to tweet first and ask questions later.

Some Donald Trump supporters misinterpreted some of the lines critical of King George III as broadsides against the current American president.

Declaration of Independence tweets inflame some users

One tweet read, “A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Another said: “and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.”

A Twitter user accused NPR of condoning violence while trying to sound patriotic. At least the user had the decency to apologize after his error was pointed out.

The misunderstandings were not limited to Trump supporters, however.

Others were under the impression NPR was trying to provoke Trump with the tweets and praised the outlet for doing so.

An NPR spokesman termed it a "lively conversation."

That would be putting it mildly.

This little dust-up is just a symptom of a broader illness — our divisive and ugly political discourse.

Wise consumers of information must be mindful to consider the source before rushing to judgment.

Unfortunately, that happens all too rarely.

Instead, whatever position your favored politician takes becomes the de facto right position.

The “R” or the “D” behind someone’s name is more important than the facts, or fallacies, they bellow.

The same thing goes for news stories. For many, the veracity of the information depends on the outlet, not the reporting.

Now, sadly, one of this nation’s most sacred documents has been dragged into our petty political disputes.

This unfortunate incident should serve as a reminder for the partisans on both the right and the left to take a little more care, and do a little more independent investigating, before hitting the submit button.

Engaging in — and winning — a political fight shouldn’t be our paramount goal.

Instead, we should focus on solving our nation’s many problems.

That will require cooperation from all of us, no matter our political affiliation.