“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.”

          Thomas Jefferson inspired the world with these words, setting in motion the eventual  demise of divine right monarchies and the spread of republican principles across the planet. Yes, it was only “men” so favorably endowed at that time – when most Black men in the colonies were enslaved.

          But, you have to start somewhere. It was the concept of equality that stirred passions. It was easy to substitute “people” for “men” when conditions allowed. Just as easy to include all people when we abandoned our national shame.

          Walking into an advanced math class is more than anecdotal evidence that we are not mental equals. (If we could articulate the symbols, we would still be at a loss as to their meaning.) A quick scan of the police blotter assures us that we are not moral equals. (How can people do such things to one another?)

          Jeffersonian equality is an equality of rights, of personal standing. People are to be treated equally by societies and their governments – no special favors for the rich and powerful; no targeted discrimination against the poor and marginalized.

          Jefferson borrowed his “unalienable rights” from English philosopher John Locke, a fellow deist, whose articulated trinity (others are inferred) were “life, liberty and property.” Locke’s assessment is more radical from an economic standpoint. Jefferson told free thinkers to follower where their arguments led.

          Jefferson’s statement of what became an American Creed follows an explanatory introduction and precedes 27 grievances against King George III, which were listed as justifications for declaring independence.

          What kind of independence?

          ” 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,….”

          Yes, our founder realized that our “unalienable rights” required protection to survive, what  Abraham Lincoln later designated through “government of the people, by the people and for the people.”

          The founders did not announce their divorce from England with a call for anarchy. No “Root, hog – or die.” No “Let’s hit the road and devil take the hindmost.” They recognized the need for a government to ensure the equal rights they were announcing.

          The predatory capitalism of today is not enshrined in the Declaration. There is not even mention, much less endorsement, of the initiative capitalism that provides the rhetorical cloak for today’s corporate manipulation of society. (No mention of Christianity either – to the chagrin of the misnamed Christian Nationalists.)

          There are economic and trade issues among the grievances. But, we wait 13 years for the established relationship between the U.S. government and commercial interests.

          Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution declares Congress shall have the power to, “regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian Tribes.”

          Thus, our government – acting with “just powers from the consent of the governed” – is charged with regulating the economy to “promote the general welfare,” of us governed as  stated in the Constitution’s Preamble.

          Businesses, corporations, moneyed interests were not given free rein to profit at the expense of the rest of us. Their clout was to be watched and regulated.

          One of my jobs the past few weeks, with its extension looming many months into the future, is to keep water in my birdbath. I will look out back and a half-dozen or so small birds splashing and drinking at a time. And, twice on the day I’m writing this, I have looked out to see a much larger boat-tailed grackle swoop in, clear the other birds out and take all the water for itself.

          Our government was established to prevent such bullying among its citizenry.

          (Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)

Independence – and governance

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