Two hundred and forty years ago a group of 56 affluent white congressmen in Philadelphia signed a document that says: “…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…”
I wonder how many of us today actually believe the seven powerful concepts embedded in this short declaration? How many of us specifically believe: 1) that every person is created equal, 2) that all of us share some group of the same basic rights, 3) that life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are to be offered to every person, 4) the purpose of government is to secure these rights, 5) that we consent to be governed, 6) that we have the right to oppose government that does not fulfill this duty, and 7) we have the right to form new government.
We see so many examples in our communities of people acting in opposition to these core principles. So many act in ways promoting their own self-interests and beliefs over the rights of others. When it comes to immigrants, it seems like we interpret these words to mean “all men (as long as they entered my country with the permission of government) are created equal”. We recently saw a waive of disapproval of the actions of African Americans sports figures who declined to show customary symbolic support of the federal government. I’ve commented about the sharp division of beliefs among the “intellectual elite” in Philadelphia today – a group whose beliefs resemble those of the signors mentioned above – that are quite different that those of their suburban and rural neighbors. Even the mention of overthrow of government is viewed as something that can get you put on a federal watch list.
My fear is that these core values are just that: values. They are not law. They are not part of the US Constitution. They are not even part of our dominant Christian religions. They are not the values I hear being expressed by Americans in these days following the election. Most disturbing, they are not likely to be core values of the majority of members of the US Supreme Court under the Trump administration.
These core beliefs remain strong within me. I am scared of the results that will follow based on the evidence indicating that so many others have abandoned these values of equality and independence.