A week from today we will celebrate the 240th anniversary of a rebellious group of men standing up to their oppressor on behalf of a nation yet to be formed. We have come so far in some ways, and are falling backwards in others.
As a nation, we stand for the proposition that individual liberty and freedom are the paramount virtues we should be pursuing. The Founders wanted to form a country where all men were created equal – the hypocrisy of how they ignored women and their African slaves notwithstanding – I think they were going in the right direction, however imperfectly they stumbled forward.
Coming from a society that looked to arbitrary standards to define a person, like who they were born to, or if their parents were married at the time of birth (let alone conception!) or the randomness of skin color, the mere concept that ALL MEN would be equal was earth shattering at the time. This was a society that “knew” you were better because you were born into a richer family. This was a time when etiquette and “morals” defined a person, or destroyed a person.
There were ‘illegal’ relationships. If you fell in love with a married person, there were real world consequences for consummating that relationship. Loss of public respect, loss of assets and children were all very real effects of having an affair and it becoming publicly known.
Conversely, the total devaluation of women and almost total devaluation of African-Americans was enshrined in our Constitution with no thought really to the Declaration of Independence’s concept of “all men are created equal.” It was a very short step away from the rigid hierarchy of English Royalty and a Monarchy gone astray, but it was a step, nonetheless.
It took us almost 150 years for women to get the vote, and we still have parts of this country that try hard to disenfranchise the poor to maintain control of the landed rich folks. We waited until the 1960s to deal in any wholesale effective way with civil rights, and we still have lots of work and education to do almost 60 years later.
Yesterday the Supreme Court upheld a piece of the President’s travel ban, and even with that contested piece of Executive Branch regulation, we are still the shining example of a country that people want to live in, and will fight the elements to come here. We have many problems. We still have racism, sexism, homophobia, religious bigotry, and in some weird “only in America” way we still have a ‘class’ issue based on one’s assets.
Americans tend to revere the almighty dollar and the perception of hard work that it takes to gather a lot of dollars. We look up to men like President Donald Trump who proclaim themselves superior by way of their alleged wealth. We reward the wealthy with more wealth and public acclaim – I give you Kim Kardashian for example. She is respected not for her public appearances, but for the business savvy to sell Americans entertainment. Whether it is her TV show, or her cellphone apps, her kimojis or what started it all, a bad porno – she is an excellent salesperson.
Today we have a President who is more concerned with his golf score than the numbers of Americans who are put out on the street, or left hurting with the loss of their health insurance. We have a Congress that is not looking out for the best interests of the country, but rather the best interests of their biggest donors.
While the men who drafted and signed the Declaration of Independence were by no means perfect, in fact they were pretty awful in many ways, they were at least trying to create a better government, a better country a better life for their own children. Can we say the same with today’s elected officials? I think not.
I see them selling out our national parks, destroying the civil rights gains we have made, being unconcerned with the environmental protections and caring more for their own re-election than making a name for themselves in history.
In 100 years will the names of today’s Senators and Congressmen be revered or reviled? I know not for sure, but if I had to bet on it, I know where I’d put my money.