In Congress, July 4, 1776/Incongruous, July 4, 2018

By Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.

As a kid I loved all the red, white, and blue bunting, waving flags, and exciting fireworks on the Fourth of July.  When I got older, I began learning American history, to sing “The Star Spangled Banner,” and the significance of our national holiday took on a deeper meaning.  I was proud to be an American.

Several years later, I came out as a gay man.  I soon learned the country I loved, no longer loved me, because of who I loved.  In fact, the Government and its leaders, who I had supported and elected, were advocating for the suppression of my civil rights and publicly legislating to keep LGBT men and women as second class citizens in America.  It didn’t make any sense.  I had memorized and believed Thomas Jefferson’s words.

“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.”

Had I missed something?  Misunderstood what those words meant? I checked Webster’s dictionary for clarification.

we plural pronoun: you and I and another or others

hold verb: to believe

these – plural of this

truths plural noun: transcendent fundamental, or facts

to function word: showing following word is an infinitive

be verb: to have an objective existence

self-evident adjective: true without proof or reasoning

that pronoun: the person, thing, or idea indicated

all adjective: every member or individual component of

men plural noun: man, syn. mankind, humanity

are verb: present tense plural of be

created verb: past tense: to bring into existence

equal – adjective: like in quality, nature, or status

that pronoun: the person, thing, or idea indicated

they plural pronoun: those ones

are – verb: present tense plural of be

endowed verb, past tense:  to provide with freely or naturally

by preposition:  through the agency of

their adjective: of or relating to themselves as possessors

Creator noun: one that brings something new into being; especially, capitalized: god

with preposition: inclusive of

certain adjective: inevitable

unalienable adjective: non-transferable

rights plural noun: a privilege to which one has a natural claim of possession

that – pronoun: the person, thing, or idea indicated

among preposition: in company or association with

these – plural of this

are verb: present tense plural of be

life noun: a manner of living, existence

liberty noun: the power to do as one pleases, freedom

and conjunction: to indicate connection or items within the same class

the article: to indicate that a following noun is definite 

pursuit verb: to find or obtain, seek

of preposition: to indicate the cause, motive

happiness noun: a state of well-being and contentment, joy

 In other words,

“All of us believe these facts are true.  All humanity is made the same and they are given by creation inevitable, non-transferable privileges in nature; including their existence, freedom, and to seek well-being and joy.”

No disclaimers, exceptions, or expiration dates there.  Only fundamental facts so clear and plain, they require no explanation.  Tenets of equality and freedom so profound, they became the guiding principles of Abraham Lincoln’s words and deeds. Still 242 years later, the United States of America fails to live up to even the most basic beliefs its founders set forth in their declaration. 

While Marriage Equality became the law of the land in 2015, today there are 31 states where LGBTQ people have no employment and/or housing protections.  In 2016, Mississippi made it legal for businesses to deny services and accommodations to same-sex couples and their families.  This year the Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to that law.

In the US the systemic killing of unarmed black men has become so routine, it inspired NFL players to peacefully protest before their national audience.  But their message got hijacked; bastardized as “disrespecting the flag;” and their platform denied.  But it is displaying the “stars and bars” that is truly disrespectful. The Confederate flag was a traitorous banner raised to keep millions of African-American men, women, and children in slavery.

Imagine for a moment if the “Me Too Movement” where about women who have been cheated out of the pay they’ve earned for doing the same work as men.  The #MeToo would explode exponentially.   Just imagine telling any man, the company was taking 19.5% of the money he had earned.  He’d call it a crime and rightfully so.  Yet, when women are robbed that way, it’s just another assault in the workplace.

This country was colonized by people fleeing persecution in their homelands; that made a life-threatening journey to get here; and were looking to build a better life.  It was built by generations of “new Americans” who came to its shores and boarders believing in a dream for their children, not a cage.  America is meant to be “the shining city upon a hill;” but now, if your skin is brown, its leaders’ hate and bigotry has made it a mirage.

There are only 35 words in the ironic sentence which has spoken volumes to the world about our American beliefs and values for almost two and half centuries.  But, given the policies and actions of our current “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” we need to ask them, “Which word don’t you understand?”

And today ask ourselves, “What have we got to celebrate?”

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