Happy Independence Day!

Image shamelessly pinched from here

"All honor to Jefferson—to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression." ~Abraham Lincoln, Letter to Henry L. Pierce

I have to confess it is hard to muster a celebration mode, so under attack are the principles of the Declaration we celebrate today. 

The Weedlets & I attended the closing Mass of the Fortnight For Freedom. That helped. The mass was glorious. A good trumpet voluntary always moves my spirit -- and this liturgy was all trumpet. Still, the consolation was more in the form of great gratitude for having lived under such a system than any present joy -- it will take a lot of work to re-assert the basic principles of freedom. (Which is not to say I or we are not up to the task. Discouragement is Satan's chief weapon. I'm just saying my mood is somber.)

The other day on FB I quoted an excerpt from Washington's letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Providence and from one of my formerly-Catholic-and-Conservative-but-now-ashamed-of-that-in-front-of-his-gay-friends friends got back a snide comment about how much better things are now, since the Founders didn't include everyone in the unalienable rights of the Declaration. I wrote out a whole civics education for the guy but then deleted it and let it go in favor of reiterating the point about religious liberty I was making. 

But, sigh, I think some of my worst moral suffering comes at the hands of people like my friend who understand nothing about American history and fancy themselves better men than the Founders. Like the atheists who think they are the first people ever to notice that the creation account in Genesis is not a scientific text -- on whom it never dawns that the very first readers noticed and concluded interesting lessons from that-- they are so quick to dismiss their forbears as ignorant neanderthals, they little know how much their know-it-all comments reveal their glittering ignorance and failure to read a single thing on the topic. 

Ironically, in denouncing the Founders as mere bigots who didn't mean everyone when they spoke of the equal rights of all, they are siding with the South and the slavers against Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  Here's how Lincoln answered that charge in the aftermath of the Dred Scott decision

First he quotes Judge Douglas, who takes my Facebook friend's position: 
No man can vindicate the character, motives and conduct of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, except upon the hypothesis that they referred to the white race alone, and not to the African, when they declared all men to have been created equal—that they were speaking of British subjects on this continent being equal to British subjects born and residing in Great Britain—that they were entitled to the same inalienable rights, and among them were enumerated life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Declaration was adopted for the purpose of justifying the colonists in the eyes of the civilized world in withdrawing their allegiance from the British crown, and dissolving their connection with the mother country.
Lincoln then winds up:
My good friends, read that carefully over some leisure hour, and ponder well upon it—see what a mere wreck—mangled ruin—it makes of our once glorious Declaration.
And lets loose:

"They were speaking of British subjects on this continent being equal to British subjects born and residing in Great Britain!" Why, according to this, not only Negroes but white people outside of Great Britain and America are not spoken of in that instrument. The English, Irish and Scotch, along with white Americans, were included to be sure, but the French, Germans and other white people of the world are all gone to pot along with the Judge’s inferior races.

I had thought the Declaration promised something better than the condition of British subjects; but no, it only meant that we should be equal to them in their own oppressed and unequal condition. According to that, it gave no promise that having kicked off the King and Lords of Great Britain, we should not at once be saddled with a King and Lords of our own.
If the Declaration means nothing more than we're sick of your tyrant and want our own damned tyrant, then what the hell are we celebrating? Lincoln asks. 
I understand you are preparing to celebrate the "Fourth," to-morrow week. What for? The doings of that day had no reference to the present; and quite half of you are not even descendants of those who were referred to at that day. But I suppose you will celebrate; and will even go so far as to read the Declaration. Suppose after you read it once in the old fashioned way, you read it once more with Judge Douglas’ version. It will then run thus: "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all British subjects who were on this continent eighty-one years ago, were created equal to all British subjects born and then residing in Great Britain."

No, says Lincoln, however imperfect the contemporaneous embodiment of those principles, no matter the political compromises required to have a country strong enough to endure, the Founders intended to set down a marker towards which all mankind would strive -- and it is, shall we say, self-evidently ridiculous to claim otherwise.