Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Blind Eye to the Self-Evident

A cynic might question the motivation for declaring, in the United States Declaration of Independence, that, "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." The bare hypocrisy of slaveholders declaring all men equal would prove inconvenient, but a laziness may have been fostered when it comes to defending a truth that is declared "self-evident."  It seems in the United States that the self-evident can be acknowledged with platitudes rather than the courageous actions, integrity and a pursuit and protection of a truth that required more stalwart champions.

There have been champions at times who have strived to make their fellow Americans aware of this self-evident truth and often they have met with exceptional resistance. McCarthyism came and ultimately went, but it had a platform and institutional powers to wreak havoc on the lives and potential of a significant number of people before the witch hunt was brought to heel.  The Ku Klux Klan has had the opportunity to wax and wane in popularity rather than be ostracized for the bigotry they espouse and their violent sidebar in American history.


Meanwhile, those who strived to bring equality and justice where it was merely self-evident -- Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Harvey Milk to name far too brief a list to do justice to the dignity, defiance and integrity that have been demonstrated by so many for the simplest of causes -- and posed an inconvenience to a society that congratulated itself for overlooking the injustices that troubled it met daunting resistance before the institutions and American government and society acknowledged and included each newly-acknowledged minority.  Unfortunately, however, the obstacles facing minorities in the United States get erected again and again and the so-called inalienable rights get challenged by the favour that is given to collective rights over individual rights.


The country that has E Pluribus Unum - "out of many, one" as its motto is hobbled by an array of hyphenated diversities where only one ought to exist. Instead of a commitment to individual rights that extends to all, regardless of race, religion, gender, gender identification, or sexual orientation, there have been efforts nationally and at the state level to implement laws that restrict freedoms and rights of specific groups.  Some laws are obvious in their target, such as those bathroom laws aimed at transgendered individuals. Other laws and initiatives are subtler on first glance, but are aimed at repressing the right to vote among minority groups.  Over time, some of these initiatives to reduce the rights of minority groups may be fought back, emphasis on may.  Until the time when those initiatives are recognized as the efforts by those in power -- whether by virtue of political office, corporate advantage or being among the majority -- to retain or hoard more power, American society will fail to be the pluralistic society of individuals it brands itself to be.  


The slow, hard-won and begrudging inclusion of one minority group at a time only sustains the American power structure rather than open it to allow all, as the Declaration of Independence states, the pursuit of happiness.  I might be inclined to quibble about the merit of this of all goals or pursuits, but to turn it the other way people deserve the right an opportunity to avoid the devastation and misery that comes with gun violence, and for-profit health care that is limited to the very few. As the US is run today, people are denied the opportunity to pursue happiness.


Since the election of Donald Trump, collectives have become empowered to assert their intolerance against minorities or those weaker than themselves. Two executive orders aimed at the travel privileges of individuals from predominantly Muslim countries have been pushed back against by the US courts, but the moves have, "activated Trump's base." The base probably feels a sense of security or certainty thanks to the ban and may have felt secure enough in their inclusion amongst the privileged to act out against minorities. There is some uncertainty as to whether hate crimes have risen or fallen since the 2016 election but Trump's initiative to have Homeland Security establish a unit to respond to complaints of crimes committed by immigrants is an ominous step toward establishing further obstacles for minorities in the United States, despite the reality that they are less likely to commit crimes.

Given the President's knack for distraction from the real issues, it seems that the initiatives he and other Republicans have embarked on to target minorities provide ample smokescreen for the policies and programs that are actually denying more people, not just the minorities, their rights to their inalienable rights. As the collectivist (what a nasty communistic sounding word) distribution of rights and powers continues to be bestowed upon those who are from the groups already with the greatest privilege, more and more of the very people who see him as their champion will be left out in the cold.  The concern is that these people will not likely turn against Trump as their quality of life continues to erode.