It is a day of celebration across the United States. Our entire country is thinking about the great things that occurred about 234 years ago and how the actions of those men shaped our country today. While there are many things within our country that we should cherish, appreciate, and celebrate,the founding fathers did not leave us with a perfect system or society. They left us with a framework and an ideal and we had to figure the rest out.
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.
This is a beautiful sentiment and one that I imagine few people do not believe in. However, it is flawed. The men that are mentioned are white and own land. Women aren’t mentioned, and while this can be written off as a flaw of the english language, I think it is still telling.
Our republic was constructed to insulate the government from the unwashed, uneducated masses through elected representation and a electoral college rather than a direct popular election. The founding fathers wanted their freedom, but they wanted to maintain their status. As many of them were farmers, with slaves, preventing rights for the slaves extended their prosperity on the backs of an enslaved people.
There is no doubt that the founding fathers did great things. But, our system is not perfect and we should recognizethat. Slavery still existed until the 1860s. After that a system of discrimination was put into place to prevent all of the rights that were due to African Americans. It wasn’t until almost 100 years later in the civil rights movement that real progress was made past the post-slavery institutionalized discrimination.
Women could not vote until 1919 when the 19th amendment to the Constitution was passed. Even still, women were not welcome in the workplace and now there are still inequities in women’s pay.
While our history of 1776 should be celebrated and remembered, we should also remember the entirety of our history. The severe discrimination that many people have suffered at the hands of ignorance is just as important to our history as the meetings of the Continental Congress that shaped the ideas of the Declaration of Independence.