On July 4, 1776 thirteen colonies, which would become the United States, declared their independence from England through the Declaration of Independence. I thought it would be interesting to look at this holiday and the document which sparked the American Revolution and examine where we are now through a social justice lens.
I must confess that I weep a little every time I read the Declaration of Independence, for it really is a beautiful living document.
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.–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. 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.
Allowing for the sexist language in its context, this is some powerful stuff here. Now — 237 years later — how are we living up to this declaration? Several points come to mind when I read this and I worry we are still failing. When I look at the current environment of how we try to control women and the disgraceful misogyny displayed today (Rick Perry and Wendy Davis), I am saddened. When I think about how we continue to target and marginalize the LGBT community, I am saddened. When I think about the multigenerational impact of the intentional marginalization of people of color, I am saddened. When I think about the Occupy Movement and the devastating disparity in income in the United States, I am truly saddened.
What are we to do? How do we right these wrongs? How do we “throw off such a Government” that seems to be working for only 24% of Americans? How do we end endless wars? How do we take better care of our veterans? How do we ensure ALL people have health care?
It seems to me we have the answer in the Declaration of Independence. The document charges us all with the task of: “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.”
A true democracy — of the people, for the people, by the people — is a glorious thing. But a Congress frozen in partisan bickering and held hostage by a slender fringe minority, a high court that capriciously abuses its power to place corporations over people, an executive that practices terror to fight terror, these are not democratic ways.
There must be some type of resistance, or non-violent way to have a revolution that ensures: “that all men (people) 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 us all join together, demanding the full celebration of our rights, and help transform this country to best represent its lofty, and laudable, intentions.