Yesterday all across America, we celebrated the action taken by 56 white men in Philadelphia in 1776.
How oppressive were the British toward the colonies? Were there summary executions for dissenters?
Were leaders disappearing at the hands of midnight death squads? Was the real issue for which men were willing to put their lives on the line merely being taxed without being represented? I could not get these questions out of my mind while I watched the wonderful fireworks in Narberth, PA, surrounded by families and fireflies. These are really worthwhile questions in a time when the U.S. has over 700 military bases around the world, in what appears to be excessive military overreach that looks altogether too much like the British Empire against which the Revolutionary War was fought.
On the other hand, for the magnificent principle of equality and justice articulated in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. serves as a source of inspiration, a light of hope for those oppressed. Its words are deeply associated with the Statue of Liberty proclaiming our caring for the poor and downtrodden. Equality and compassion seem to stimulate respect.
The powerful words of the Declaration remain alive to the extent that we realize their depth. "We hold these truths to be self evident." Is that really so? It is not self evident to the eyes or intellect that "all men are created equal." Obviously some are smart and some less gifted, some tall and some short. And, when it was said, surely it was not an obvious "is" but merely a very idealistic "ought." There were great disparities of wealth and influence in the 18th century. Without property, particular skin color, or gender there was not even the pretext of equality. But from the eye of the heart that sees the dignity of the soul, "all are equal." The ideal was placed into history and continues to generate positive change.
This principle of the equality of the soul has become the gold standard of social justice from that moment onwards. It is not based on what is seen with the eyes, but what is understood by wisdom.
That is is why it is actually wisdom that was being celebrated yesterday.