This year marks the 241st anniversary of the ratification of the Declaration of Independence. I keep a poster-sized copy of “The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America” hanging on the wall over my computer. I actually read it once in awhile. I couldn’t help noticing that the divide noted in the Declaration between the British king’s rule and what the colonists wanted is present in today’s White House.
The words from the Declaration that are the most quoted, “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” have yet to be woven into the fabric of America after all these years. People of color and women are still treated as unequal in schools, business, employment opportunities, and by law enforcement agencies, just to name a few. The Trump administration has targeted selected religious groups and banned their members from entering our country. According to Metroweekly, at least seven states are pushing anti-LGBT laws, and the feds are tearing apart families by deporting parents who have been in this country for decades – working, paying taxes and raising their families.
However, these groups are not the only ones being targeted for unequal treatment. Over twenty million people, many of low-to-moderate income and/or living in poverty are being told that they don’t have the same right to live healthy lives like the better-off members of society do because the Republican’s ‘Trump Care’ proposal will knock them off health insurance exchanges. These same people are also being threatened under the proposed Trump budget with losing SNAP benefits and aid for paying for heat in the winter. Our seniors are being targeted for an increase in health insurance costs under ‘Trump Care,’ making it too difficult for them to live their remaining years with “Happiness” and dignity.
In addition to the oft quoted “all men are created equal” clause, the Declaration follows that up with, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men….laying its foundation on the principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” The Trump administration, and the Republican-controlled Congress, seem hell-bent on taking away our “safety” with their proposals to eliminate much of the funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Funny, both of these agencies have the word “safety” in their title, yet Trump and the GOP want to defund them and eliminate their regulatory reach. They want to turn back the clock on protecting our air and water from corporate polluters and our citizens from unsafe and toxic consumer products. In other words, corporate greed Trumps citizens’ health and safety under the current government in Washington.
In stating the case against British rule, and the King, the signers of the Declaration created a list of actions by the King that were anti the premise of equality of all men and opposed to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The writers used the term “absolute Despotism” when referring to the King’s actions. In past columns I have referred to some of Trump’s actions as despotic. And, in reading the Declaration, I have found some similarities between Trump’s actions and those ascribed to the King.
First: The writers accused the King of forbidding “his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance…” I equate this with local and state governments passing “sanctuary” laws to direct law enforcement agencies to not do the work of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office. The local and state governments passed these laws to protect their citizens, but Trump threatened these same governments with funding reductions as punishment for their actions. Despotic.
Second: The writers found that, ”He [the King] has called together legislative bodies at places…distant from the depository their Public Records. For the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.” This sounds similar to Trump’s calling the GOP Senators to the White House in order to get them to repeal Obamacare and pass “Trump Care.” Despotic.
Third: The writers stated: “He [the King] has made Judges dependent upon his Will alone for the tenure of their offices.” This is very similar to the acid test, or is it a loyalty test, Trump has for choosing judges who reflect his conservative ideas of anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, and pro-corporate profits over the health and safety of the citizenry. Despotic.
Fourth: The writers accused the King of trying to limit the population of States by “obstructing the laws of Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither…” Trump has issued executive orders to prohibit refugees and immigrants from certain countries from emigrating to the United States. He issued these obstructionist orders despite the efforts of many people pointing out to Trump that we “are a nation of immigrants.” In fact, the writers of the Declaration stated a similar sentiment when they wrote: “We have reminded them [the British government] of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here.” Despotic.
Fifth: The King was also found to be “cutting off our Trade with other parts of the world”. Trump’s isolationist mantra to put “America First” by building walls and threatening sanctions against our trading partners will essentially be “cutting off Trade with other parts of the world.” Despotic.
So, as we celebrate the Fourth of July and “The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,” let us reflect on the reasons our founders declared our independence from British rule. It was more than just “taxation without representation”. Yes, economics was a big part of the Declaration, trade and taxes were given as two reasons for declaring our independence, but it was the “Laws of Nature” and the unalienable rights of all people – “that all men are created equal” that guided the formation of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration that stated government derives its “power from the consent of the governed…” and not the other way around.