Two hundred forty-one years ago the elite of the American colonies met in Philadelphia. They agreed on, and then signed, a declaration of war against England. For obvious reasons, the declaration was called something different: a Declaration of Independence.
It took a while longer, but eventually their act led to the creation of these United States of America (which later became known as the United States of America).
A lot has happened since 1776. Some good. Some bad. Some, who knows?
One thing is indisputable, however: people immigrated to this land from around the globe. Obviously, they thought life could be better here. And for many, it was.
People still want to come. Yet we’re no longer sure we want to welcome them.
Your ancestors on your father’s side came from Europe, Vera. Your ancestors on your mother’s side came from Mexico (although some of them probably hail from Europe and Asia if you go back far enough).
I don’t much care. It’s you who matters. Where your ancestors were born and raised is of no consequence. People are people. The idea that worth is somehow tied to skin color or ancestry is absurd and ridiculous. It’s nothing more than a lie some people tell to feel better about themselves.
But I’m not completely stupid either. I realize tribalism is real. It has been since humans started keeping a record of their affairs. And it probably was even prior to that.
We all belong to at least one tribe. That’s fine. But it’s hard for me to think it’s fine when we start believing our tribe is inherently more worthy than another tribe. Such thoughts always turn ugly. Sometimes they turn violent.
These words are written in that document signed in Philadelphia nearly two and a half centuries ago:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Since then, we’ve revised the principle to include women. And people of color. And people of non-Christian faiths.
We didn’t live up to our principles in 1776. But we’ve been working at it. And we’ve made progress.
My hope today is that we don’t decide to forfeit the progress we’ve made. And that we’ll continue to pursue the ideal that has helped make this tribe of ours so appealing to so many.
It was a declaration of war. But it wasn’t one primarily directed at England. It was war against something far more insidious and destructive. It was a war on the principle that all men and women are not created equal.