No, “men” does not now mean “all people”

Dear President Trump,

Did you tune in this morning to Nunes’s screed about the impeachment inquiry into your Majesty? I couldn’t bring myself to listen and only watched the live closed-captioning for a few minutes – where do you find these louts? Over the course of the hearings thus far it’s almost been funny watching them fall all over each other trying to win “Best Lap Dog in Show.” Really though, it’s been horrifying and in no small measure, terrifying. As in what the f*ck are they doing? If the GOP can go all in on you, the POTUS who has uttered the most lies, engaged in the most self-dealing, has actively worked against large swaths of the country and her people and invited foreign adversaries (and now coerced allies) to influence elections in his favor, then where will they draw the line? Will they ever draw the line? And this is just the shit that has surfaced, the shit we are aware of. Do they each get to pick a tropical island somewhere (at sea level, I hope) if they do you proud?

Ok, obviously I could continue railing against the Trumpian GOP Machine for a good long time, but I want to return to the discussion (albeit one-sided) of the Declaration of Independence I started yesterday because I think doing so will be more constructive (and might lower my blood pressure a tad).

Probably more than half of all Americans over the age of 12 can recite the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence. Just in case you are not one of them, I will include it here (again):

“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.”

And we all, or very nearly all, dutifully intone the word “men” even if it causes us to flinch or feel some quease – this is just how it was written and if we are being true to our all important history we’ll stick with the script (no improv allowed). We also pretty much all go ahead and mouth the words “by their Creator” whether we believe in such a “Creator” or not.

I’m clearly not in other people’s heads, but most of the time when I say something out loud about how problematic it is that we all still use exclusionary language like this to represent what our country is about, I get pooh-poohed and essentially told I’m being too sensitive and that everyone knows “men” now means all people. It makes me want to scream because no, “men” does not now mean “all people.” Certainly some of us strongly believe we should mean all people, but we are not all on the same page about this and in not collectively standing up and insisting that we put something explicitly inclusive alongside the old document, we continue to prop up the original identity politics of the white patriarchy.

Here’s my rework of that first sentence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that we are endowed by Creation with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Just a few word swaps and there is a completely different feel – a far more expansive and welcoming feel. Read it through a few times. I know you’ll hate it at first, but you might come to find some teeny, tiny part of yourself comforted by bringing your daughters and granddaughters into the fold.

May we be safe to be fully visible and included.
May we all be willing to realign our language so it is true.
May we keep ourselves sane as we do the work we need to do.
May we keep kindness and justice centered.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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