Today Americans celebrate their nation's birthday, the official day when the United States separated from Britain and became a new nation.
But when Erie County residents were asked Tuesday to sign the Declaration of Independence, our nation's most famous document, only one in 10 would do so.
Reviving an old prank, I printed out the text of the Declaration of Independence and attached it to a clipboard with a place for signatures. I put a couple of blank sheets in the back so I could write down all of the patriotic comments I got.
I stationed myself late Tuesday morning in front of the Sandusky Library. Before I was booted off library property, I managed to approach about 20 people. Two signed my petition. Nobody seemed to recognize what they were being asked to sign.
I didn't ask people "Would you like to sign the Declaration of Independence?" I wanted to see if anyone would recognize the nation's founding document.
But I didn't cheat, either. I asked, "Would you like to sign a petition for political independence?" I figured that might ring a few bells on July 3.
Then I showed them the beginning of the document I was asking them to sign. At the top, it said, "IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America."
Some people didn't stop long enough to see what I had, but many did. If they would pause, I tried to make sure they saw the first paragraph, the one that begins, "When in the Course of human events ..."
I also wanted them to see the second, which starts, "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."
The first person who looked at my petition wanted to know, "What are you trying to accomplish?"
After he read the first few sentences of the Declaration, he turned me down, saying, "We no longer live in a free society. I'd hate to see that backlash on me."
The second person I approached, LaJuan Owen of Sandusky, accepted my pen and signed.
"I read the first paragraph and liked it," she said.
Christy Emrick of Sandusky also signed. She said she recognized "bits and pieces" of the document.
One man asked me, "What the (heck) is that?" When I showed him, he said, "No, I'm not interested."
Others simply said no. Many looked at my petition, without appearing to notice anything of interest.
The document I was asking local citizens to sign was adopted July 4, 1776, by the Second Continental Congress to announce and explain why the original 13 colonies were separating themselves from Britain and declaring independence. It listed a long set of grievances against the government of Great Britain.
My attempt to stir up sentiment against King George III ended when the library director, Julie Brooks, asked me to leave. I was standing outside the library, near the entrance.
"This is not public property right here," she said.
Brooks called me at the newspaper later to ask what I was doing. When I explained I was trying to get people to sign the Declaration of Independence, she laughed and said, "Sorry." Solicitations are not allowed in front of the library, she explained.