Two hundred forty-six years ago, the Second Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, adopted the Declaration of Independence declaring the independence of the thirteen American colonies from Great Britain. With the Declaration, these new states took a collective first step in forming the United States of America. The declaration was signed by fifty-six of America’s Founding Fathers, congressional representatives from New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The Declaration began with these now-famous words:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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…
Our unalienable rights to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” have come under siege from a far-right, conservative minority led by former president Donald Trump, Senator Mitch McConnell, and Representative Kevin McCarthy along with governors in red states such as Ron DeSantis of Florida, Greg Abbott of Texas, and Brian Kemp of Georgia, among others. These men and many who follow them are doing their best to take away the rights of women, LGBTQ+ Americans, and voters around the nation. They are being supported by a conservative majority on the Supreme Court (Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Barrett, and Roberts). SCOTUS has been emboldened by their majority to begin curbing the rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights themselves: freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly. They are eroding the rights of due process to push their own warped agenda. Many of these politicians claim to be doing the will of the Founding Fathers, yet they ignore our unalienable rights to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
I asked a friend last week if she had any plans for the Fourth of July, and she said, “I don’t feel like celebrating this country right now.” She has a point. A small number of religious zealots don’t believe in religious freedom, but they believe they can cram their fanaticism down the throats of all Americans. Teachers in Florida aren’t allowed to say gay in the classroom (an oversimplification of the “Don’t Say Gay Law” but as the law came into effect a few days ago, that’s exactly what is happening). Furthermore, anytime conservatives don’t like a news story, they yell, “FAKE NEWS!” and try to suppress the truth, or they just spread their own lies distorting the truth to fit their political agenda. They claim that an insurrectionist attack on the US Capitol was a peaceful assembly while throwing tear gas on people peacefully protesting injustices around the country. The Marshal of the Supreme Court just called for a prohibition on protests in Maryland where many of the Supreme Court justices live. Yet, at the same time, they fight against even the most sensible gun laws in a misguided interpretation of the Second Amendment.
I will remember the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, but I won’t be celebrating this country today. We are moving far away from the ideals of the Founding Fathers and moving closer to a time of fear and hatred. I hope that over the next four years leading up to the semiquincentennial (also called Sestercentennial or Quarter Millennial, a.k.a. the 250th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence) that we can get this country back on the right track and secure our unalienable rights to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”