Are 226 years – or even 237 years – enough time to get it right? Apparently not.
We undeniably are getting closer in this “two steps forward, one step back” experiment launched by white male slave-owners.
But as we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the U.S. Constitution 11 years later, there are some Americans who won’t be marching in parades today or waving the flag.
Their celebrations will be muted by bitterness over last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision effectively gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act – as if the last few years of thinly veiled voter-suppression efforts never happened. In the face of patently transparent ID requirements, limits on early voting and other efforts to curtail the turnout of those deemed not even citizens by the Founding Fathers, the high court pretended that local and state governments operate as if all Americans are indeed equal.
That charade, compounded by the disingenuous directive that this dysfunctional Congress fix any defects in the law, is a reminder of how far this nation still has to go and how studiously oblivious some its leaders are to the roadblocks standing in the way.
Or maybe holiday celebrants will have their enthusiasm checked by the realization that women – another group not deemed worthy at the nation’s founding – are not trusted some 200 years later to make fundamental moral decisions about their own bodies.
Last month’s demise of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s women’s-equality agenda over efforts to enshrine in state law the protections of Roe v. Wade – in case the Supreme Court reverses itself – is a reminder that the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote did not end what remains an ongoing struggle for full equality. Some female anti-abortionists notwithstanding, it’s hard to imagine this would even be up for discussion if men had to give birth.
And let’s not even ponder how Native Americans must regard Independence Day.
On the other hand, one encouraging sign was the high court’s decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, a modern-day effort to write unabashed discrimination into federal law. The closeness of the 5-4 vote should not detract from the momentous impact of the ruling giving gays the federal benefits that accompany marriage.
But while all men – gay or straight – may be created equal, this nation that began by considering only white, male landowners worthy of the franchise still turns a willfully blind eye to what happens after creation. Inequity in income and wealth are at alarming levels as plutocrats and their lobbyists write laws passed by legislators bought in a campaign finance system that would land the participants in prison if applied to any other sector.
The result is best summed up in the prevailing credo about who needs this nation’s help: Tax breaks for the wealthy make them “work” harder, while breaks for the poor or the unemployed make them lazy and unmotivated.
But today is not the day to dwell on the negative. Ever the optimist when it comes to America, I prefer to look on the bright side. I consider this July Fourth the first day of the next 226 years – by which time we might live up to the full promise of the Constitution and the flowery rhetoric 11 years earlier that inspired it.