I'd like to call your attention to a few lines of the Declaration of Independence, and to offer my commentary on them. Please feel free to post your comments as well.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
The key word here is “unanimous”. The founders were serious about this, because they understood the severity of the action fully. Remember that, at the time, Great Britain was the most powerful military force on the planet, and the odds would be very much against the new nation in an armed struggle. It was important that the thirteen states be truly united to show their determination.
And it is in this need for unanimous action that many compromises, some good and some bad, came into being. One of the baddest of the bunch was slavery.
The majority of the founders, even those holding slaves, believed that slavery was wrong. Several colonies, however, disagreed with that position. In order to present a unified front, it was agreed to by the majority that no language related to slavery would be placed in the Declaration in order to keep the decision unanimous.
Was this the right thing to do? Maybe not, maybe so. Second-guessing history is a game you can't win. Could only eleven of the thirteen colonies have managed to break away from England? I don't know, and no one else does, either. Since the majority caved to the minority, it is clear that the founders believed that anything less than a unanimous position would fail. I think we must bow to their choices at the time. They were there. We weren't.
One thing is clear, however...if you read the writings of Jefferson, Franklin, and others, they knew that slavery would be one of the largest obstacles to face the United States in the future. Franklin even predicted a “...struggle, perhaps armed, in less than 100 years...” over slavery.
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.
It is these few sentences that define the United States. We can talk about the Constitution and the laws, but in these few words, the founders spelled it all out very clearly.
To me, the most powerful five words ever written are all men are created equal.
Some people say that these words are meaningless, and what the founders meant was that “all white male property owners” are equal. As for me, I believe the founders said just exactly what they meant to say. After all, why would they be so precise in the wording of the rest of the document and so fuzzy here? It doesn't make sense.
It is true that society at the time defined the people holding the political and economic power as the white male property owners, but I think the founders knew that would change as the United States matured. Less than 100 years after this document was written, the slaves would be free. Less than 150 years later, women would get the right to vote. Segregation would vanish in less than 200 years. These changes happened not because of the Constitution or the rule of law. They happened because we, the people, took those five words to heart.
We saw that the founders really did mean “All Men” when they laid out the principles that define us as a nation.
Have we reached the lofty goal that the founders challenged us to achieve? No, not yet. We move forward every day, sometimes slipping backwards now and then.
There are those who will argue that the gauntlet thrown down by the founders is one that we can never pick up, that we can never reach that perfection envisioned 235 years ago. Why do some people have such a defeatist attitude?
We can only try, we can only give our best, we can only give 110% effort, and we will move ahead, coming closer and closer to that dream. When we fail, and we take a step backwards, as we did when we imprisoned Japanese-Americans in WWII, we must face those facts and correct our course. When we wrong our fellow Americans, as we did for many long years to the Native Americans, we must examine what we did wrong, correct our misguided efforts, and continue to move ahead in the right direction.
This is not easy work, nor will all Americans agree with the correct path of action. It is there that lies the true political greatness of the passage I quoted above.
The founders stated above that ...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. These words established the concept of the Constitution, defining it as the means by which the people, the governed, grant power to the government. It is we, the people, who hold the power. The founders made the United States a self-governed nation. We can, and should, demand accountability and redress from the government. We must be vigilant and watchful of those we select to steward the operation of government.
When we blindly turn over the task of government to others and merely accept their demands and direction, we do a disservice not only to the Declaration of Independence and it's authors, but to ourselves and to our progeny.
The few lines above charge us, the people of the United States, with the task of taking care of ourselves. It is a huge job, but one that I welcome fully.
I would have each of you ask yourself the question, “Am I taking care of myself by being self-governing?”
...we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
It is with these words that the Declaration of Independence ends.
Perhaps the framers of these words were referring only to the fifty-six men whose signatures follow this line, but my impression is that the words refer to all people of the United States.
In context of today's world, we can see this ideal represented in a few places. Police, firefighters, emergency services workers, medical personnel, and a few others live by this line. These people pledge their life each and every day to the welfare of their fellow Americans.
The largest group who follow this creed are, of course, members of the military. Even in times of peace, or far from the battle fields where our soldiers fight, military personnel face extreme danger at every turn. Not even police and firefighters face the things that the military deal with. Have you ever worked on a thermo-nuclear warhead or a bunker-busting bomb? These people do not do this work for the pay. They do it because they believe in the dream defined in the Declaration of Independence.
But each of us owes to everyone else our honor, our fortunes, and our very lives. As Evelyn Beatrice Hall said, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it", we must all be willing to defend our fellow Americans. If we agree or disagree is moot.
Our very freedom is at stake.
Lastly, as far as the Declaration of Independence goes, I want you to reflect on the men who signed the document. Remember the global power-politics of the time, and you will see that these fifty-six were, in effect, signing their own death warrants. Their lives had about the same value as a pile of chicken shit.
Again, ask yourself a question...”Would I have the guts to sign such a document in the same situation?”
I would like to think that I would, but I honestly don't know. I would hope that I would be willing to stand up and really pledge my life to my fellow Americans. But that's hard to do when we are talking about the reality and not some abstract ideology.
It is always easier to do the wrong thing. You are part of the herd following the wrong leaders and the wrong causes. You don't have to fight for what is right. The safety in numbers offered by the herd makes us feel secure.
Doing the right thing is hard. You have to break away from the safety of the herd, stand out alone in the middle of the plain, daring the predators to pick you off. You're subject to attack, to pain, and to death itself.
As a nation, we have done the hard things. We have stood up for the oppressed. We have battled the tyrants and those who would rule the world in their own image. We have made huge strides to follow that guiding light found in the words ...all men are created equal..., but there is still much hard work to do.
As a nation, we have also taken the easy way out far too often. We ourselves oppressed people because of their beliefs or the color of their skin. We have waged war unjustly for dubious causes. We have forgotten the words That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. We have blindly followed those who would divert us from the path we have followed for nearly a quarter of a millennia.
It seems that in many cases it is no longer politically correct to believe in the principles defined by the founders in the Declaration of Independence, but I believe that is the right thing to do. It is hard, and being cut off from the herd, I fully understand the risks I am taking by pledging to you, my fellow Americans, my life, my fortune, and my honor.
God Bless America
Melodee Aaron, Erotica Romance Author
Melodee's Books at BookStrand