I told you some months back that I planned to embroider the Declaration of Independence so that I can print from it and today seems like an appropriate day to give you an update. I still have about another week’s worth of work to do but I’m finally at the really good part about revolting when things finally, finally become unbearable. Because this 4th of July it has become so incredibly clear that we must follow the founders’ edict, I’m going to include the whole thing here and I’ll indicate where I am in the embroidery process.
Declaration of Independence ~ Preamble
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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among People, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that people are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
I’ve bolded the words that I had to change to make it so that it wasn’t offensive, but really, for something written 244 years ago by a bunch of white male enslavers, it’s remarkably enlightened. As far as my embroidery progress, I’m several words into the last sentence so I’m seriously in the homestretch. I think it’s going to be one of those things where finishing will be bittersweet – it’ll be good to move on to the printing part but it’s been soothing to work on something stitch by stitch that’s so deeply us and is still so deeply radical.
Yes, they were focused on their own white male enslaver selves vis a vie the King of England and they weren’t concerned about the rights, happiness, safety, or security of anyone else. Indeed, they were firmly of the opinion that everyone else existed to make them comfortable, bear their children, and build their wealth for them. However, I think it’s perfectly fair to treat the message as though it’s valid for a time such as ours, because truly enough is enough and it’s our duty to throw off Government that is abusing us, that is usurping our power, that is not looking out for our safety, happiness, and security. The begrudging moves to enfranchise black men and then finally, women, were not nothing, but we’ve never fully reckoned with the need for America to be America for everyone and we need to acknowledge this with more than a “tut-tut, oh well, so sorry for you” and actually change the whole damn, crooked enterprise. Now.
I just read Langston Hughes’s Let America Be America again and he was saying the same thing – here is the third to last stanza: “Sure, call me any ugly name you choose— / The steel of freedom does not stain. / From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives, / We must take back our land again, / America!
May we finally be safe from those who would live like leeches on our lives.
May we be willing to do our duty and throw off this oppressive Government.
May we be healthy and strong enough to imagine and move towards true freedom.
May we all accept that safety, happiness, and security are everyone’s rights.