In continuing with this series on the Declaration, today I will be covering a slightly larger section.
“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. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of thee 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 mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”
I find particularly interesting the words ‘self-evident,’ defined as: not needing to be demonstrated or explained. By doing so they are subtly implying that there are some people who believe otherwise. If it is obvious that we are all created equal, then why are we not treating each other in such a way? The equality which all men have is not given by man but by their Creator and is unalienable. The writers are saying that nobody has the right to take away equality from a fellow human being. Among the rights that are given are life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Yet, if we look around, it seems that we are more concerned for our own selfish interests than we are about the rights of others. I think some people take these rights to mean they should be able to behave however they want. That their “pursuit of happiness” can occur at the expense of others. But our rights have to coexist and cannot come at the expense of another. We have to pursue these in unity and unselfishly. This is the reason for the government they claim. We need to secure everyone’s rights. We need to secure equality.
But we are not completely subject to this government. The writers knew that even the government can become corrupt and destructive of these rights. And just as we should not impede the rights of others, the government should not impede our rights. When this begins to happen, we have to make a change to preserve those rights. So often I feel that we are living passively. We don’t see things as effecting us enough to take any action. However, the writers are making the statement that we have to be active in pursuing and preserving our rights. We cannot expect that somebody will do this for us. We have to take initiative and fight for what is right, for ourselves and others. And that the Government should have at its foundation principles that effect the safety and happiness of the people. Where are those principles now? Are they still being effected? Are we engaged and active in the process that governs our lives? The writers are empowering us and reminding us to be engaged and fight for our rights.
The last part of the portion for today particularly stands out to me. Read this again…
“and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”
We are willing to put up with injustice and hardship. Maybe because it is easier to be passive than active. But in doing so we are losing are freedom and rights, and in doing so diminishing our quality of life. Would we really rather suffer than fight for our freedom? If so, there will come a time when we have been so passive that we forget what our rights and freedoms were. Where will we draw the line between bearable suffering and fighting or our freedom?