Sunday, November 21, 2010

Americans Are Hungry to Believe Liberty and Equal Justice Will Ultimately Prevail

LAST TIME: America's Love of Fictional "Everyman" Underdogs

With its ringing assertion that certain unalienable natural rights (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) exist beyond the reach of any manmade government - and, more radically, that the people have the right to abolish any government not observing those rights - the Declaration of Independence was a bold statement to the world. As Thomas Jefferson wrote on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence just days before his death, “May [the Declaration] be to the world, what I believe it will be (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government.”

It was Americans' ancestors who then crafted a Constitution establishing a governmental structure guaranteeing liberty and equal justice, thereby making America the first nation in the history of the world to break the bonds of feudalism. While the promises of the Declaration and Constitution have fallen far short in the execution, the mandate for a constitutionally-limited government dispensing equal justice is every American’s birthright. “It is the protection of the humblest individual against his own government; [his] bulwark against autocratic power, and against the impulses of an irresponsible majority,” Gaspar Bacon rhapsodized in 1928.

So, when Americans are presented with anecdotal reminders of liberty, individual autonomy and equal justice triumphing over a rigid shepherd, it stirs something familiar from deep within themselves: a welling pride, a visceral longing, a sheer hope, that someone - maybe even oneself or loved ones – will have the courage to claim the full promise of Freedom bequeathed by their forebears. Americans are hungry to believe liberty and equal justice will ultimately prevail. The fictional characters identified in the last post, Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz in 1939, the Great Debaters in 2007, and even Yertle the Turtle in 1959, speak to this hunger, and stand – as do their real-life counterparts Roger Williams, Thomas Paine, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, W.E.B. Du Bois and Vine Deloria - as timeless American heroes for courageously challenging a powerful, often unjust and intolerant Establishment - and winning in the end.

NEXT TIME:  Roger Williams