“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.”
As I was thinking about a quote for my Facbook status (which I like to post for holidays) I could think of nothing more fitting than these words from The Declaration of Independence, which are usually attributed to Thomas Jefferson. (There is historical debate about how much help he actually had in writing it but I digress.)
It would be easy to look at these words and think only of the inherent flaws of both the author and the words themselves. I could focus on the use of the word ‘men’ and know that this wasn’t just semantics at the time it was penned because it was NOT self-evident that women had the same unalienable rights. I could also choose to focus on the idea that these unalienable rights were attributed to a creator by a man (or men) who later went to great pains to ensure a wall of separation between religion and government. There is also the not so small matter that while penning the words “ALL men are created equal” the author(s) saw fit to OWN other people. There is certainly a lot to pick apart when looking at these words, and yet I find myself willing to overlook the flaws and instead choose to see the beauty of what was being established.
I think in our culture we are all too willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater, especially when those we’ve placed on a pedestal have a hard time maintaining their balance from such a lofty position. Perhaps it is the tribal mentality of our ancestors that causes us to seek out leaders; whatever the reason it seems inherent in human nature. But it also seems inherent to then rebel against those same leaders. We expect our leaders to be perfect and when we find out they are human we instinctively protect ourselves by questioning whether or not this person is really the best choice to lead, or more extremely if (s)he is fit to lead at all. We do ourselves a great disservice with this expectation of perfection.
When we dismiss people out of hand because they have weaknesses we fail to see their strengths. If we wish to continue the great dream for our Nation that was laid out on this day 135 years ago then we must be discerning both when choosing and when dismissing those who lead us. I much prefer the idea of looking my elected officials in the eye, flawed human to flawed human, than trying to balance them on a pedestal. Pedestal’s are far too unstable.