Sunday, July 03, 2005

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

I present to you, citizens of The United States of America and fellow citizens of the world, the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence: When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable 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. 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. The Declaration of Independence of the Colonies to King George III was written July 4, 1776, but was not signed by the majority of delegates until August 2, 1776. Some signed even later and some never signed at all. I sat here tonight and read it aloud, to myself for no other reason to remind myself that freedom is never free. What do we know of life in 1776? There was no e-mail, nor telephones or even a telegraph. Word of the Declaration of Independence didn’t reach England until August 10th. Today, people would know in a matter of moments. What do we know of what George Washington and his men, including my great-great-great-great grandfather, and what they suffered at Valley Forge? They certainly didn’t have a Bradley or MREs. (For non-military types, that’s Meals Ready to Eat). They had no radar or helicopters. The majority were not military men... they were farmers and farriers and blacksmiths. Simple people with a common cause - freedom. However, it was a pack of hypocritical bullshit as well. All men created equal? Then they all went home to their slaves? Come on! Even the great Thomas Jefferson, an outspoken proponent of slavery, went home to slaves (Sally Hemings anyone?). And what about we poor WOMEN??? Puh-leeeeze. When they said “men created equal” they meant “men.” Not mankind, not all persons... men. My point is simply this - It all started when they wrote the Declaration of Independence. But that’s not where it ended. My fellow Americans, that wasn’t where it ended at all. It continues to this day. Just last month they convicted a man for the murder of three civil rights workers in the 60s. The 60s. My father, as a member of the United States Army, helped integrate schools in the South. My DAD. Not my grandfather or my great-grandfather, MY DAD. This was only 40-45 years ago! Yet it was Amendment 15 (1870) that stated - The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. But it wasn’t until Amendment 19 (1920) that WOMEN were allowed to vote. That was the year my grandmothers were born. All men created equal, indeed. Still today... homosexuals fight for their rights. Their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Let me point out that neither the preamble to the Constitution nor the preamble to the Declaration of Independence says anything about God. The Constitution says nothing and the Declaration says “Creator” and “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” Not just “God,” but “Nature’s God.” As the primary author and the one who believed in a ‘creator’ you can thank, Thomas Jefferson, whose critics called an atheist. People came to the New World to escape religious persecution, like my great great great (umm... great great?) grandmother, Dorothy Jones. Her family were Welsh Quakers. One of my ancestors on my Dad’s side of the family was from East Africa, probably a slave. Other ancestors on both sides of the family were American Indian (and let’s not talk about THEIR rights.) Whether they were here already, came to forge a new life, or were brought by force, once the Declaration of Independence was written, shouldn’t it have applied to all of them? I think we can see, it did not. We enjoy so many more freedoms today than we did in 1776. But they weren’t free, so don’t take them for granted. Let us remember our men and women in the Armed Forces all over the world, giving other people the chance to say, “I’m free.” Whether you believe in the current administration or their agenda, you can’t argue that freedom feels pretty damn good. Happy 4th of July.
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