“A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”
Sometimes it becomes necessary to speak out and declare yourself independent and equal. The founding fathers of the United States of America started their unanimous declaration with that idea on this day in 1776.
They further declared that everyone was equal. They said “men” in the text of their declaration, but they meant everyone. Even if they didn’t know it at the time the truth that they held to be self-evident was that every man and woman, of every race and color, of every creed and origin, deserved the unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of their own happiness. And when a government fails to deliver upon that promise, they said– when it becomes destructive to these ends – it should be altered or abolished.
Today in America we are among the freest people in the world. Today in America we are among the most unequal people in the world. Both statements are completely true despite their apparent juxtaposition.
We have suffered a long train of abuses. Those abuses have come in the form of a government serving the will of the plutocracy over the good of the people. Wages have stagnated for the middle and lower classes while wealth has accumulated in the hands of fewer and fewer. Despotism can take many forms, often the form of a single cult of personality. But it can also take the form of an elite class absorbing more and more of the gains of society while allowing less to the citizenry “that which is wholesome and necessary for the public good.”
Today is an important day. A constitutional republic with aspirations of democracy still stands, 243 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It has not been an easy road. For nearly 60% of our existence as a nation women could not vote. Black people were not considered equal to white ones until less than 60 years ago. In our pursuit of growth we all but wiped out the indigenous people of America.
And today we face great crises, unlike any before. The climate is changing. The threat of nuclear annihilation is ever-present. Mismanaged globalization, inequality, and the whims of dictators around the world create mass migration. In our misunderstanding of the causes of those migrations and in our unreasoned fear we clamor for walls to protect us from those who mean us no harm. All the while those who do mean us harm – the corporations and the plutocrats who seek nothing but personal gain at the expense of all others – are allowed to continue their ravages unabated. In fact, encouraged. They look like us, are elected by us, say the things we want to hear, but work only for themselves. They are the princes and tyrants unfit to rule a free people.
We have much to do in the years to come. We have failing infrastructure and corrupted voting. We have among the nations of the world perhaps the greatest wealth, but we provide for our people the least.
This is not the time to abolish, far from that. But this is the time to alter. In America today we do not cater to a single despot but to many; to those with the money and the power to game the system. We have in our power, as a constitutional republic, the means to alter those rules for the good of the people. The people. That was the promise of this day nearly two and a half centuries ago. We failed to achieve the promise written in the document we revere today, but we have made progress. We can progress still.
I love this country. As I have said before I can both love America and disagree with it when I think it is wrong. That, above all, is the intent of the Declaration of Independence. Not to write down words, forge a nation, and stop, but to create a nation for the people that evolves into something ever greater than it is today. Today it is a powerful war machine with great economic inequality. But it also among the freest nations in the land with the most diverse of populations. We have much to be proud of, but we can be prouder still as we create a land of greater equality, greater freedom, greater distribution, and a greater understanding that our differences are sublime.
On this day cherish all the good that has come since the birth of this nation, but remember all the mistakes, as well. Know what we have achieved but know as well what we should have done better and what we must do better tomorrow.
For the people, America.
All of them.