As Americans celebrate the anniversary of their nation’s birth, it is not entirely clear if they really comprehend why the American colonists broke away from England. Fortunately, Americans can read the Declaration of Independence and see for themselves that the list of grievances are founded on Jefferson’s immortal statement that “all [men] are created equal” and have “unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
It is a sad fact of life that 238 years after issuing the Declaration, the concept that all Americans are equal and have “unalienable rights” is as false today as it was at the nation’s founding. It is true that over two centuries the nation did grant more Americans equality according to their unalienable rights, but the gains are rapidly being chipped away by other Americans under the guise of defending their rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The other Americans denying every citizen their unalienable rights are Republican and religious, and are worse than the tyrant the Colonists finally broke away from. Looking briefly at Jefferson’s immortal statement, and the meaning of the words he carefully chose, explains why the religious Republican right are tyrants; and blatantly un-American.
Unalienable is defined as “impossible to take away, deny, or give up,” and liberty means an individual has control over their own actions, speech, and the power to choose how they conduct their life. Life, of course, is the capacity for growth, functional activity, and change preceding death, and happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.
To Republicans and fundamentalist Christians, Jefferson’s “immortal statement” does not apply to “all men” or “any woman;” it is reserved solely for the rich and the religious; specifically the religious Christian right. If Americans have learned anything over the past five years, it is that Republicans and their teabagger cohort are on a tear to deny Jefferson’s unalienable rights to every American that is not a member of the wealthy elite or religious right. Thus, not only do they openly oppose the sentiment behind the Declaration of Independence for all Americans, they have made taking away those so-called “impossible to give up and deny” rights from every American save the religious and the rich.
Republicans at all levels of government, at the behest of the religious right, have launched a vicious crusade to eliminate well over half the population’s liberty to control their own actions and the ability to choose how one conducts their life. It is beyond refute that the attacks on women’s sexuality and reproductive health, Americans unwilling to comply with religious edicts, or gays seeking equal rights, are solely to eliminate their ability to control how they live their lives. Whether it is Republicans and the religious right actively impeding women from controlling when they give birth, or disallowing gays from choosing how to conduct their lives, it is the definition of tyranny that American colonists fought a war of independence to break free from. Today a majority of the population faces harsher tyranny than the Colonists because it is founded in religious domination; something the colonists were not subjected to and the Founding Fathers attempted to prevent.
Although it is true Republicans and the religious are not actively hunting down and eliminating Americans’ lives, they are actively putting large swathes of the population in harm’s way. Whether it is denying women the right to medical care, forcing millions into poverty with barbaric slave wages, or deliberately withholding healthcare from the poor, Americans are dying and it is down to Republicans serving the rich and the religious.
Happiness is relative and difficult to quantify, but there are tens-of-millions of Americans whose mental and emotional state is anything but contentment or positive feelings. When one group uses their “unalienable” right of liberty to dominate, control, and harm other Americans, it is obvious the dominated will never be happy. What is astonishing, really, is that what makes Republicans and the religious happy is denying most Americans all they need to be happy; freedom from religious tyranny, ability to control their own lives, a good job, adequate food and shelter, and basic medical care.
Despite Jefferson’s timeless declaration, it is time for the American people to rise up and declare their independence from Republican and religious tyrants once and for all. It is not that Jefferson’s unalienable rights need to be changed, but it is crucial to declare that liberty is not the authority to impose religious tyranny on the people, or force them into servitude to the wealthy elite. Any new declaration will also require defining life as more than barely surviving at the whims of the rich as promoted by Republicans, or being denied the basic human rights of clean air, water, food, shelter, and medical care; the things that ensure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
If what makes Republicans and the religious right happy is using their lives and liberty to deprive the rest of the populations’ rights that the Declaration of Independence claims are impossible to give up or take away, they are tyrants. In fact, “taking away” Americans’ rights is the sole intent of the Republican and religious right tyrants regardless if it is other Americans life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness and everything those “rights’ entail. Republicans and the religious have no right to celebrate the nation’s founding because they are actively, and with malice aforethought, in a crusade to destroy everything the Declaration of Independence stands for in their plot to rule by tyranny.
It is a travesty that too many Americans will celebrate the nation’s Independence Day and never give a second thought to how their unalienable rights are being eroded at the hands of tyrants. But they will wave their flags, get drunk, attend parades, listen to Republicans and the religious tout the virtues of the Jefferson’s timeless declaration, and watch fireworks; all the while their unalienable rights are vanishing at an alarming pace because Republicans and the religious are actively pursing their liberty to tyrannize the American people.
Happy Independence Day! Wave a flag, watch fireworks, enjoy family and friends, and then contemplate how to help all Americans enjoy their unalienable rights before Republicans and the religious right eliminate them.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.