Indeed, a collective shiver climbed through some of us when the president invoked places made sacred by the freedom crusades they saw.
“We, the people,” he said, “declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall.”
Pitts called this “a needed statement of principle at a time when some of us seem determined to repeal progress.” Pitts continues:
There was more to that passage than sibilant alliteration. There was also a reminder that there was nothing predestined about this American dawn, that we come to it by way of struggle and blood, courage and vision. Yesterday, 1848, at Seneca Falls in New York, 300 people convened to advance the radical idea that women are fully equal human beings. Yesterday, 1965, at Selma, in Alabama, African Americans had their bones broken and bodies bloodied to put forward the radical idea that they were American citizens who deserved the right to vote. Yesterday, 1969, at The Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village, gay people rioted and protested to drive home the radical idea that they had the right to be left the hell alone.
What do the examples of Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall have in common? They symbolized fights for legal equality; for an equal recognition of their rights, not a plea for special government favors at others’ expense.
“[T]he radical idea that they had the right to be left the hell alone” is another way of saying they have an “unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”; a principle that applies to all people in all areas of their lives. It is the principle that separates America, in its Founding ideals, from every other culture past or present. It is the principle that underpins capitalism.
Funny thing about principles: Once you espouse one, it becomes a yardstick by means of which to judge all of a person’s actions, including actions concretely unconnected to the specific subjects at hand. I left the following comments:
The self-evident truth, “that all men are created equal,” is so new in human history that it is not fully understood to this day. It means equal individual sovereignty and rights; rights being guarantees to freedom of action in pursuit of life’s goals and happiness, not an automatic claim on the services or wealth of others. It means equal before the law; to equal protection of one’s rights and property. This principle properly brought America universal voting rights, reproductive rights, an end to legalized racial segregation, marriage equality for interracial couples and--soon--for gay couples. These advances are properly lauded.
But, if Obama’s social policies derive from this revolutionary idea, his economic policies derive from the ancient evil of tribal collectivism--a turning back to a yesterday that the Declaration of Independence was thrown up to reverse. The inalienable rights Obama also cited inextricably implies the right to property; to earn, keep, and dispose of property, to voluntarily produce and trade with others, by one’s own rational independent judgement. On this, Obama is firmly ensconced in a decades old trend of growing economic authoritarianism; an explicit “pledge to restore yesterday.”
We desperately need a party that rejects the Dem’s economic authoritarianism and the GOP’s social authoritarianism, and lays down a coherent platform of economic and social freedom. Along with political freedom, that would be the full realization of the New Dawn envisioned by the Founders.
As Yaron Brook notes in this interview, America’s Declaration of Independence is the secret weapon in our arsenal. The Declaration contains the basic principles--the basic building blocks--for a freedom agenda. When those hostile to freedom in any area of our lives invoke those principles, as Obama did and as Martin Luther King Jr. did in his I Have a Dream speech, pro-freedom forces should seize on them to hold our opponents’ “feet to the fire”; to show how those principles contradict their rights-violating policies.