Volume XX, Number 27 (Issue 979) July 4, 2022
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of…
How long has it been since you spent a few minutes reflecting upon the opening line of our Declaration of Independence? Well, there is no better day than today to do just that. And to help you get your juices flowing I’m going to share a couple of my thoughts about:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
Other than the clearly dated reference to “all men,” has anything fundamentally changed when it comes to the powerful principle expressed in that thirty-six-word proclamation? Not so as I can tell. Yet here we are two hundred forty-six years removed from 1776 and we continue to struggle applying, let alone honoring those concepts in any consistent way.
Such inconsistencies arise in large part because each of us is free to choose how we will interpret those unalienable rights. Think about it, the nine most senior jurists in this land – women and men well-schooled and highly experienced in the law who are sworn to remain impartial – only reach a unanimous ruling in about half the cases they hear. The rest of the time members of the Supreme Court split on some interpretation of a point law. So how can we expect the other 338 million of us to agree on much of anything?
Except for the meaning of equality. And yet we continue to discriminate against those who don’t look like us, speak like us, or otherwise share important common bonds. In fact, we readily choose to classify, vilify, and even victimize others on the basis of race, gender, country of origin, socio-economic background, educational opportunities and achievement, physical, emotional, and intellectual abilities, religious or political preferences, not to mention a host of other “differentiating” factors. Trust me, I’m no saint when it comes to stumbling over a few of these biases. But, with the help of others, I am committed to working on it.
However, while equality is or should be clear, we are also fortunate there is ample ambiguity inherent in the words “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Thus, the happiness I am pursuing is not likely to be the same as the one you are seeking. Nor is it likely to match my neighbor’s or your neighbor’s. If I were to say that I am rich, what would you assume? It should go without saying my standard
of wealth is based upon a comparison with a particular benchmark. But am I speaking about our net worth, financial assets, real assets, family and friends, health, faith, or another measure of blessing compared to someone else’s? You and I are well acquainted with those who are obsessed with fame, money and the lifestyle and toys money can buy. We also know those who find their joy in devoting their life in service to others – where material wealth is not an element of their goal. In America, each of us is free to choose who we marry, our career, where we live, the faith we follow, and the goals we pursue. Such liberty, in and of itself, is a rare and special blessing.
But because such opportunities are uniquely available to us, one week ago over fifty migrants suffered an excruciating death in the back of a hot eighteen-wheeler at the hands of unscrupulous human smugglers. What was it those migrants wanted? I believe it was the promises found in those three dozen words.
Or what about the near-violent debate now raging over the recent Supreme Court ruling on abortion? Both sides passionately believe their position is right and the others are wrong with zero possibility for a gray area in between. How do those two diametrically opposed views and others like them square with those thirty-six words?
Bottom line, we are incredibly blessed to live in this country. We also owe an incalculable debt to our founding fathers who, suffering an injustice at the hands of a remote government that afforded them no voice or vote, showed wisdom and courage in choosing to risk all for this remarkable experiment in democracy.
Soli Deo Gloria
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13
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Copyright 2022 by J. Keith Hughey. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for reproduction and redistribution of this essay as provided under the copyright laws of the United States of America. The entire early library of Monday Morning Musings issues may be found at www.jkeithhughey.com. Your comments are welcome and encouraged.