Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Self-evident truths?

This nation may have been founded on a false assumption. Namely that certain truths are self-evident.

Recently a friend asserted that no truths are self-evident. My jury is out on that one, but I did counter that Jefferson and the founders begged to differ. Of course they famously proclaimed that "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" are “inalienable rights” and are clearly “self-evident” truths.

Could Mr. Jefferson and his colleagues have been wrong?

Frankly, it would seem so.

One of the problems with sanctifying historical text is that we stop reading it critically. When the body rests on its knees, the mind turns to mush.

Consider, Mitt Romney, hardly an equal creation. Mr. Romney was created unequal. Consider his “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.” It would seem that one's creation is how one get a clear shot two Harvard degrees, how one’s spouse gets not one but two Cadillacs and one’s garage houses so many vehicles they are stacked in tiers by car elevators.

And just how many houses does Mr. Romney own in this time of rampant homelessness and foreclosures? The last Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, had so many houses he literally lost count.

Inequality is how a Mr. Romney and a Senator McCain (and, to be bi-partisan, a John Kerry and a JFK) have  excellent shots at becoming president in post-revolutionary America.

Indeed the “self-evident” truth we live with today is that all of us are NOT created equal and we are NOT endowed by our Creator (or by anyone else) with certain inalienable rights...among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

All you need to do is compare infant mortality in Sweden to infant mortality in Zimbabwe. Or compare the same statistics in Darien, Connecticut, with those in Yazoo City, Mississippi. And how does skin color correlate with imprisonment and the death penalty? How is the equality of genders doing in Saudi Arabia or dozens of other countries? It took nearly 150 years after Jefferson penned his words for women to win their struggle for the right to vote in this country.

Perhaps the founders, many of whom owned slaves, were being aspirational. If so, we have a long, long way to go to fulfill their aspirations. The government they instituted hardly treated slaves and Native-Americans as if they were “created equal.”

If you take a longer view, I suppose you could argue that we have made some progress, but of late our government has been backsliding badly. If you want to be created equally, try not to be created under the flight path of a US drone in Afghanistan, Somalia or Pakistan.

And, closer to home, the Supreme Court isn’t exactly treating us as equals under its Citizens’ United decision. Money, not people, rules our democracy.

So we need to turn to a real self-evident truth proclaimed by Mr. Jefferson and his revolutionary cohorts.

...whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or 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’s time, folks.

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