It is Independence Day and the yabuts are out in force. The reactionaries like to set off fireworks and avoid realizing that the system they believe is the be-all and end-all of human achievement arrived by revolution, by mass action of a people fighting against those who thought their system was the be-all and end-all of human achievement. Meanwhile, the pseudo-lefts dominate the discussion where I am listening: Let anyone dare quote “All men are created equal” and out they charge: “Yeah, but what about the native peoples?” “Yeah, but the founding fathers owned slaves and permitted slavery.” “Yeah, but what about women?” they cry.
To me, the statement “All men are created equal” is a promise, a rallying cry, and an inspiration, and what the yabuts prefer not to look at, is that this promise and inspiration did what it was supposed to: it inspired the Abolition movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the labor movement, the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s. Over and over, leaders from Frederick Douglass to Lincoln to Eugene Debs to Elizabeth Stanton and Lucretia Mott to Martin Luther King, Jr have referred to this document as an inspiration, as an “unfulfilled promise,” using it as a banner and a sword to further the cause of human equality.
The Declaration of Independence was revolutionary and inspirational at the time it was written, and it is revolutionary and inspirational today. Whatever the yabuts say, the fight for equality is not hindered by an appreciation of those who, earlier, took what steps were available to them, and handed us a torch with which to burn the hands of those who try to lay hold of our revolutionary traditions for the purpose of stopping them.
There is so much more to do in the fight for equality, which now focuses more and more on the inequality between those who must toil in order to live, and those who live on the fruits of others’ toil. To look on the past as if one had achieved such moral perfection as to permit condemnation of the battles others fought does nothing to advance this cause.