Sojourner's Blog

July 5, 2014

Meditation on July 4th

Filed under: Subversive Screeds — brucehartford @ 11:18 am

All over the country, we the people celebrate Hotdog and Fireworks Day. If we attend some official event organized by the powers that be, we are treated to an orgy of flag waving, patriotic bombast, and bloviations on “Liberty” (the details of which are unspecified). But almost never is there any reading of the Declaration of Independence that today we supposedly honor.

It’s no surprise that the ruling elite prefer to ignore the Declaration because at that document’s core are five fundamental assertions that they wish to conceal beneath piles of patriotic blather:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,”

This never meant — then or now — that every individual has the same talent, ability or character. It does mean that there is no class of people, no aristocracy, who are inherently superior by reason of their wealth or birth. And that those at the bottom of the economic pyramid are not lesser, or sub-human creatures who deserve lives of drudgery devoid of hope. That there are no “ten” whose lot in life is deserved toil so that “one” can repose in leisure and luxury. It also implies that criminals who use their power and position to rob pension funds and loot the economy should not be allowed to escape the consequences of their crimes because they are rich or politically-connected.

Yes, it’s true that most, if not all, the Declaration signers assumed that “men” meant that males are created equal and that women were not included in their concept. And yes, it’s also true that for many, possibly the majority, of the signers “men” were assumed to be white because Native Americans and Blacks were not in their eyes fully human. But it is a testimony to the living power of an idea that once articulated it grows and expands beyond the limitations of the original authors so that today most of us read this to mean “all humans are created equal.” And American history can (and should) be interpreted as an ongoing and unending struggle to broaden to concepts of equality to include women, nonwhites, immigrants, gays, non-Christians, laborers, and yes even people with odd ideas.

“That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,”

That God endowed everyone — not just the king, not just the aristocracy, not just the obscenely wealthy — with fundamental human rights that cannot be justifiably abridged or denied on the basis of birth, religion, money, or assertions of social superiority. That all humans have rights, not just those who possess economic wealth or political power. That “might” does not confer “rights,” but rather that rights are inherent in humanity.

“That among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

That all people, from all walks of life, yes even the peons, serfs, and slaves, have the right to live in safety, free of oppression. That the murder of a Black man is as much of a crime as the murder of a white, that all people, citizen and immigrant, white and nonwhite, man and woman, straight and gay, must be free to walk the street and pursue their dreams.

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

That political power is not handed down by God to kings and nobles, that legitimate power comes neither from the barrel of a gun nor from bribes and contributions of money and favor. But rather legitimate government and political power comes from the informed consent of the people (which does not necessarily equal winning an election).

“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.”

That “We the People” have the right to determine how, and by whom, we are governed. That we have the right to choose, and remove, those who exercise political power. And that if necessary, we have the right to change the methods and forms of government, or completely overthrow an old government and replace it with a new one.

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