It’s the Fourth of July! Fireworks; BBQ; and Red, White, & Blue.
I, personally, do not celebrate the Fourth. The short answer to why is that people who looked like me didn’t get the freedom we celebrate until 1865. I know why celebrations are happening and as an (U.S.) American, I can respect them.
That said, I’ve been spending a lot of time reading and analyzing literature. This morning I happened to open up the Declaration of Independence and read it; I analyzed it in the way I’ve been taught to. And the following is what I came up with:
A majority of the declaration is simply pointing out why we don’t wanna play with the British anymore, essentially indicting King George.
The introduction is really the only part that talks about our philosophy of government and the justifiable reasons we, the people, have to revolt. And that’s the only part we’re talking about in this post.
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. —
Let’s take a break here.
The words “self-evident” mean that it’s obvious! We don’t have to explain or prove that we have these rights. Yet so many groups of people have to do so. We’re also gonna assume that the meaning of “all men” here is mankind. But, I can see where assumptions can get messy. Carrying on.
The words “their creator” really stand out. We don’t get to decide which creator. Based on these lines, all men are obviously equal and whoever created them made them so. It’s interesting that it doesn’t say “our creator” here. For a group of men so dedicated to the written word, I have a hard time thinking that was an oversight – especially since the reason for their arrival in the new land was due to a dispute over higher beings and requirements of religion.
I love the word “unalienable.” It means it cannot be taken away or denied. Essentially what the creator has given the man cannot take away.
When speaking of these unalienable rights, the Declaration says, “among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” That means while they’re only mentioning three, there are more! We gotta find out the others on our own! BUT the undeniable three that top their list are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — whereas liberty is defined as freedom from arbitrary or despotic (autocratic/tyrannical) government or control.
So let’s just deal with that for a second.
It’s enough to say that at the time of this writing, it is said that approximately 1/3 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence at the time of this signing, owned slaves. One could further that argument by noting that they did not contradict themselves here as slaves were considered property (which is telling about them). But one can also note that nowhere does it say “all men who were white and or born in the U.S.” It says, “all men…endowed by their Creator.”
That leads me to ask: If we’re celebrating, is it not an affront to these words if we currently have children being separated from their families when their parents are endowed the right to pursue happiness and life by their creator (not yours, not the declarers, but the creator who created them)? Since many are fleeing countries that would deny them the very three things with which this statement says they are endowed, should we not be an example? John Adams said, “The decree is gone forth, and it cannot be recalled, that a more equal liberty than has prevailed in other parts of the earth must be established in America." Now, granted, that doesn’t say accept all immigrants. But again, looking specifically at text should we not uphold their rights to pursue happiness (note that I am not saying without limits and boundaries)?
I continue with my questions by asking, why, then, are people of the Islamic faith facing vandalized mosques if they were endowed by their creator (not yours, not the declarer, but theirs) with the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
Returning back the to the text:
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
The government was instituted specifically, for the purpose of securing and ensuring that the rights already guaranteed by our creators were protected.
Yikes. Mankind is more apt to suffer while evil can withstand. Essentially, evil will continue in its evilness unlikely to change to good because it’s become accustomed to evil! We often say we shouldn’t do this because…but is it because it’s wrong? Or is it because we’re so accustomed to doing the wrong thing….let me not preach. Next thing…
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
This in particular spoke to me. When applying these words to any group of oppressed people — be they oppressed on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, etc. —it gives them the power to undo the very thing that recognized their rights. Not only does it give the power, it says it is the duty of the people to get rid of it and find new ways to secure and protectors of those rights.
Toward the end of the Declaration of Independence, it says the following:
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.
At this, I think of every protest, march, picket line, any rage-against-the-machine moment. Let’s also be clear that this is talking about the oppressed. So before we go back and forth about everyone’s right to protest and free speech, this is not talking about anyone who disagrees with a lifestyle or a law. This is simply talking about people who, by definition, are kept in subservience or hardship by the unjust exercise of authority. And one can argue that unjust is the denial of the three rights that are mentioned at the beginning of the Declaration of Independence.
Again, I ain’t saying don’t celebrate. By all means, light your fireworks, eat your barbecue, and celebrate your day off. Do you, boo boo. I ain’t mad.
All I’m saying is, if we do want to celebrate what independence was purported to have meant at the start of our great nation, once we’ve looked at Declaration of Independence and the day we celebrate its approval, perhaps today requires a little more of us than simply having a few drinks by the pool.