AMERICAN DREAM IS GETTING LOST
I see July the Fourth peeping around the corner and it makes me want to say some things that have been walking around in my innards. Things about what America means to me and what it can mean to the world and the survival of humankind.
There is a portion of the Declaration of Independence that undergirds the Constitution and Bill of Rights. These may be the greatest words ever written about government. They may be the most important words ever written, period. Here they are:
“We hold these words 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.”
To borrow a word from these lines, it is self-evident that we are not created equal in intelligence and abilities. So we quickly see these words express a deeply spiritual and moral viewpoint.
They attribute our equality and rights to Creator. We were “endowed” with this equality and the right to life, liberty and happiness when we were made. They are original equipment. That is why men and women have died for freedom from the beginning of time. Something deep inside tells them they have these sacred rights.
“Endow” means to bequeath, or award. One definition I found is “to give a permanent gift.”
Since this is clearly not a statement that we are equal in intelligence, ability or assets, it stands to reason that we are equal in our worth as an individual human being. The president has no more value than the garbage collector. The garbage collector has no more value than the retardate who cannot be taught to collect garbage. Each person is to be valued for his/her inherent worth. We are the Creator’s gifts to each other.
If this governed our domestic policy, would we have such an unequal system of treating our people? Would corporate executives have multi-million dollar retirement packages while the workers pensions are being taken away? Would it be acceptable for CEOs to make 234 times the pay of their average workers, as I recently saw in one company? Would drug prices in America be ridiculously higher than those in comparable democratic countries?
I was waiting on a prescription recently when a black man in work overalls came to pick up three prescriptions. You could tell by his clothes and his calloused hands that he worked hard. He had just got paid, yet he could only afford one of the three prescriptions. I wondered if the life of someone in his family might be hanging in the balance with one of the drugs he could not afford.
It is clear that we are not practicing what our forefathers preached. The middle class is shrinking and we are slowly but surely heading toward a two-tiered society with the haves doing better than they have ever done and the have-nots doing worse than ever.
Notice that our forefathers didn’t write, “All Americans are created equal.” They said “all men.” So this principle should govern our foreign affairs. It would mean we would be just as concerned when black women and children are being cut down by machetes in Rwanda as when Balkans and Iraqis are being slaughtered.
Some ultra-capitalists would have us think that these matters are not the proper focus of government. They encourage hatred and ridicule of government so that government cannot fulfill its obligation to take care of the weak and defenseless. Our founders held no such beliefs. Listen to their words: “To secure these rights (to life, liberty and happiness) governments are instituted among men.”
The express purpose of government is to make sure that all are treated equal because they are created equal. Instead of blithely saying “God bless America” as if we are God’s pets, we need to pray, “God help America to stand for what those Philadelphia dreamers meant for her to stand for.”
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