Dear President Trump,
Remember how the other day I offered a modest re-write of the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence, swapping in ‘people’ for ‘men’ and ‘we are endowed by Creation’ for ‘ they are endowed by their Creator’? Well, I’d like to move us on to the next major sentence fragment. It picks up right after the critically important point that we all (with my edits) have unalienable rights, including to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Here you go (with ‘People’ in for ‘Men’):
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among People, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”
There’s a lot packed in those 20 words, isn’t there? I think this (then) radical statement boils down to the idea that people choose their governments to serve people, that governments should not be set up to serve those in charge or to be self-perpetuating power hogs. You all missed that memo, didn’t you? You also missed the fact that our country’s government is supposed derive its just (as in fair, reasonable, honorable) powers from the consent of the governed. You and your administration may the worst offenders ever, but you aren’t the first to blow past our democratic ideals. Really, we’ve all been pretend-playing our government is deriving its powers from the consent of the governed and that it’s working on behalf of the people.
As we’ve already established, the Founding Fathers actually didn’t mean everyone – they meant White male Protestant property owners ages 21 and over, which truly, when it comes down to it, is still who the system is set up to privilege. And yes, I am very aware, and very grateful, that we’ve made significant progress in the almost 250 years since the Declaration of Independence was signed, but you know what, I don’t think I, or anyone else who isn’t in the WMPPO21+ club, should have to be grateful to have some basic human rights tossed our way. In other words, it’s long (long) past time we paid attention to the next part of the Declaration of Independence:
“ –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
I know the FF’s were focused on England here, declaring independence from an oppressive monarchy. They wanted to institute a new government that would do a better job of delivering Safety and Happiness (sounding pretty loving-kindness-y to me) to the people. And I’ll just note that I didn’t need to make any edits since the original wording used “People,” which is nice since it more cleanly leaves the door open to consider that if we take the Declaration of Independence at its word, it’s enjoining us to be critical of forms of government that are destructive and that are not supporting the People’s Safety and Happiness.
This morning in church the Soul Choir sang Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin’ ‘bout a Revolution” from the 1980’s. It was bittersweet singing it almost 40 years after she wrote it. In fact, it was so hard that some of us needed shoring up. We had to remind one another that we are moving the goal posts out, that we are making progress, that we are not going back in closets or backing down or shutting up. And you know, I love that we have the inadvertent blessing of our forebears to revolt until we get it right, to keep pushing to create a more perfect union for ourselves and all our children.
May we all be afforded Safety.
May it be a given that we’re all supported in our pursuit of Happiness.
May we see that our government isn’t healthy if it only works for some of us.
May we all make peace with change, even when it means some of us must step back.