Eleven Score and Seventeen Years Ago

I’ve been reading Bill Bryson’s excellent (let’s face it EVERYTHING Bryson writes s excellent – the guy should receive whatever the literary version of being canonised is) “Made in America” – looking at what made the “US of A” what it is today, linguistically, mentally, physically and metaphorically. As with most Bryson books, you learn loads of interesting new stuff. In this book I’ve just learned about America’s founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the forming of the Constitution and the processes that were gone through to get there. It was quite something, considering how long ago they were written, the power of the wording and the morals behind them and that most of the people involved in their creation weren’t bureaucrats or career politicians, but regular, rather brilliant, everyday people.

With tomorrow being the 4th of July, I thought it would be apt to share a few of these words from eleven score and seventeen years ago with you:

“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.”

Quite a beautiful and inspiring sentiment, isn’t it? But considering at the time it was written slavery was normal practice and women couldn’t vote (and wouldn’t be able to for more than 150 years in some states), it does take quite a chunk out of the “All men are created equal” philosophy and the associated rights.
Even today not everyone in America has the same rights (other than the Miranda variety) and equalities. Consider the fight for gay rights, or a bunch of Texan men thinking they can tell the states’ women what’s best for their bodies. Internationally, it gets far, far worse. In many parts of the world people have even less rights, still.

Despite the stupidity of those who fail to recognise, or intentionally work against such themes and content as in the Declaration’s preamble, at its heart it promotes a far better way for life and thought. We would all be far better off for living by such words.

After all, it was only by working together equally that the United States achieved its Independence.

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