Every grade-school kid should know these lines from the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

But how many of us know what comes next?

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Together, those words are the bedrock on which our nation is built, but it’s the first part that gets all the airplay.

That’s too bad, because it’s the second part that should be even more important to us when we celebrate Independence Day.

The Fourth of July is not the birthday of our rights — they come from our creator, remember? — but the birthday of a government that would secure those rights. It’s the holiday that celebrates what our Founders risked everything to create — a system of self-government that aims to protect individual freedom and act for the common good.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep that vision in mind when the whole concept of government is under steady attack. Even people in government like to repeat anti-government screeds. Alleged patriots wrapped in the flag mock the notion that the people can be trusted. Most of the institutions that were left to us by the Founders are held in disdain by most Americans.

Only 12 percent of us say they have confidence in Congress, according to Gallup. The institution of the presidency has the confidence of 32 percent.

Our criminal justice system has only 27 percent public confidence. Public schools rate only 36 percent. Police? 57 percent.

And outside the government, institutions dedicated to the public interest, such as organized religion (41 percent), the medical system (37 percent), banks (32 percent), newspapers (27 percent) and organized labor (28 percent) are all deeply underwater.

The only institution that has the confidence of an overwhelming majority of Americans is our military, consistently getting more than 70 percent support in Gallup’s annual poll. While that’s a well-deserved compliment to the men and women who serve in uniform, it’s easy to see how the lack of balance in public trust could be dangerous some day.

When the colonists were unhappy with their government, they wrote to the king. When we don’t like the direction the country is taking, we can look only to ourselves.

Do we still consent to be led? Is it possible to praise democratic self-government and hate government all at once? What is the long-term cost of constantly tearing down the very thing that we celebrate with fireworks on Fourth of July?

In the Federalist Paper No. 51, James Madison wrote:

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”

Here are some more truths we should hold to be self-evident, too: We are not angels, and neither are the people we elect. We need institutions that we can trust to lead the leaders and stop them before they become tyrants.

We need a government if we are going to keep celebrating our Independence Day.

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