As we enter this third week in February with rain rain rain here in Wilmington, NC, my mind is on President's Day holiday on Monday also the celebration of George Washington's birthday. I remember what I learned about ole George in elementary school; something about chopping down a cherry tree, and that he had dentures made of wood. And these days he is a figurehead of "the Patriarchy" which is considered the root of the evils of this world by some. But as I continue to ruminate, up comes curiosity about the naissance of this nation, and the issues that drove a British colony toward independent self-rule. If you are ready to stop reading and scroll right past, I get it....enough with politics already. And really, a query such as this could go into so many sidebars, like the ethics of colonization, and whose land is the USA really built on, or is the Declaration of Independence even valid, as it deliberately excluded certain people from its benefit. But I will stick with a particular stream of thought, and I will keep it short. I promise.
Upon doing some light research into the gist of the Declaration of Independence, I came across this paragraph on the Sparks Notes website:
It took 14 months, military mobilization, persuasive pamphleteering, and the further abuse of colonial rights before all 13 colonies agreed to pursue independence. At issue were political as well as practical concerns. Upper class colonists tended to fear the lower class gaining too much power through revolution. Middle class colonists could not afford to see their businesses continue to decline due to trade restrictions. All colonists resented that the King and Parliament denied them representative government and their civil rights. However, they also doubted whether they would be strong enough to resist the British military.
I am struck by how some these statements seem to describe current day issues; the consolidation of wealth by large corporations and the world's wealthiest people, the merchant class experiencing challenges wrought by mandates created to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, average citizens feeling that their views and issues are not being represented in the governmental decision making process, and finally, civil and human rights abuses of certain groups of people. How can it be that almost 250 years later we as a country and a society continue to struggle with the same issues?!
While I haven't landed on a short answer, (and I did promise to keep it short!)I do glean that perhaps these are the challenges of living as a human on this earth in modern times. There appears to be no immediate solution or quick fix, and even long range plans, the fighting of wars, and the forming of new systems of government, have not ultimately solved the stated challenges. What can I as one person do? A big question, but the answer that arises is the same one that has come in response to other Big Questions that have come before. I can continue to challenge myself to be the change I want to see in the world. To work toward accurate self-appraisal, and to cultivate a willingness to acknowledge when and how I am falling short of a high standard of ethics and behavior needed to accomplish that change. I can determine to move in the direction of being and doing better. And instead of feeling cynical about Presidents Day, which can seem to highlight systemic hypocrisy and shortfall, I can use it as a reminder of the inalienable rights spelled out by the DOI of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for myself and ALL beings.