The Declaration of Independence was written specifically to dissolve the relationship “the Colonies” had with Great Britain due to the tyrannical acts of George III, and the result was the birth of this great free nation we now call the United Stated of America. We all know, or should know that from history class. However, freedom and independence, for which many sacrificed and died to secure for us, should not be ideas only we can enjoy, but should be the general consideration of human beings to each other, everywhere.
No, the irony that Thomas Jefferson, the writer of this great document which gives us this day to celebrate our freedom, owned slaves is not lost on me. He was a complex man, and though he owned several slaves, he actually was against slavery and wanted it to be abolished. I remember learning something once about his attacking Great Britain for its support of the slave trade in an earlier draft of the Declaration, but it was removed at the request of Georgia and South Carolina, I believe. It is likely that the reason he was unable to free his slaves was because of personal debt which had to be paid off before he could free them, though many were freed before his death. Say what you will about this man, after all, his life and character have been hotly debated for a few centuries now, but he did pen these famous and treasured words:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men were created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
If you read it again, you will notice the words “all men.” The Creator endowed these rights, so they really go beyond our governments anyway, right? Who will declare independence and freedom for those enslaved today all over the world (including in our own “free country”)? This isn’t something we need to depend solely on our world governments to do, though that would be a huge help; this is something we can all do, even in little acts.
This is not meant to make any Americans feel guilty as we celebrate our freedom today. By all means, grill hotdogs and hamburgers (tofu burgers if you really want, since it is a free country and all), eat apple pie, and light fireworks or just watch them on display, while you savor the moments with your family and friends. We have those rights, and we should be proud and thankful for what we have.
I just ask that you take a moment to remember with me, there are about 27 million people around the world, and a surprising number of them hidden right here in our free nation, who are not themselves free, but are enslaved to a tyrannical power which is using them and exploiting them. Human trafficking is modern day slavery. Spread the word. Find an organization to support. Let’s help declare freedom for those who are enslaved and do not have voices of their own in which to do so.
Happy Birthday to the United States of America! I am proud to be an American and I will use my free voice to spread the word about those who are not.