I was awestruck over the Fourth of July holiday, and not just by the fireworks. I was baffled by — let’s call it what it is — stupidity.

In celebration of Independence Day, the Twitter account for National Public Radio tweeted the Declaration of Independence in short spurts. A number of folks took offense to this act. Not because it was the Declaration of Independence, but because they had no idea what it was.

NPR’s tweet which 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” saw the most replies — many chastising NPR for spewing propaganda on Independence Day. This was only one tweet in a string of many laying out the full Declaration.

Folks didn’t know this was from one of our country’s most sacred documents. They honestly believed it was some form of elitist attack against the president from the “Lame-stream media.”

The first thoughts of my snarkier side were “guilty conscience?” or “well, if the shoe fits” — Trump being a real estate prince. But what really struck me was how this exchange highlighted some of the major problems that led to our current political climate.

It’s all about how we consume information. That’s what got us here. Many folks on both sides of the political spectrum have stopped looking for the meaning of the media they consume, and instead have begun placing the meaning they want it to hold upon it.

The folks replying to NPR and reprimanding them didn’t want to see a cool tribute to our nation on its Independence Day. They didn’t want to contemplate the meaning and impact of those words in 1776 or today. They wanted it to be anti-American propaganda from a biased media source, so that’s what they saw.

We have to stop that. On both sides. We have to comprehend what we read, not just skip to reacting to it. It’s a major factor contributing to the de-intellectualization of our population and leading to the divide, anger and petty arguments we’re seeing surrounding politics.

Another problem highlighted by the criticism hurled at NPR is the unwillingness of many people to do any research to assist with their comprehension — or make sure what they’re reading is true.

Especially with the rise of social media, I’ve noticed an unsettling trend. Many people read a headline and hit the share button or react. But the headline rarely tells the whole story when dealing with matters of national importance. Reading an article provides the full story and the opportunity to judge whether it is coming from a reputable site — one backing up its claims with hard, provable facts.

Even on The Morning Sun Facebook page, comments are sometimes left reacting to a headline, which make obvious the person writing it did not click the link and read the story.

We’ve got to start thinking for ourselves. Read the article. Read another article on the same topic to see if the facts line up. It’s too easy to take everything — or nothing — as truth or to simply believe everything one person or group tells us.

People were so angry and looking for a reason to hate that they were calling the Declaration of Independence propaganda. We can’t keep allowing that hate, anger and misinformation to permeate us. If we do, we’re heading down a dark path.

— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at choener@morningsun.net or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.