The Fourth of July. A holiday consistently celebrated by Americans, recognized internationally, and questioned far too little. Based on a nearly 250 year-old piece of paper signed by an assembly of privileged white men. A day which declares: almost 250 years ago, the US became independent from the rule of Britain, resulting in freedom for white males, and no one else.
Independence Day is based off of the Declaration of Independence, written in 1776 by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and other Founding Fathers. Created in a time where minority voices were suppressed significantly more than they are now. Slavery was prominent, women were without rights, and people who weren’t fortunate enough to fit into that small classification of white males were treated as nothing. And yet, we use this document as a representation of freedom—democracy.
The Declaration claims that “certain unalienable Rights” of every man are, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (p. 1) The very fact that there were slaves who had none of these fundamental rights, proves the invalidity of the statement. Further, the men writing this declaration—these aforementioned words, were contributing to the absurdity of this document by owning slaves. They claim that, “all men are created equal,” (p. 1) and yet their actions negate that. When reading the Declaration, I wondered, how could they write this without realizing their hypocrisy and contradictions? I later realized that in their perspectives, people of colour, women, and essentially anyone other than white men, were not included within these statements; they were not considered people.
Following this precedent, all American, white males have these inalienable rights and are created equally. If you don’t fit into this category, sorry for your loss, you are clearly inferior, better luck in your future endeavours. Although the ideas of equality presented in this document are admirable, the circumstances in which it was created devalue its sincerity.
They claim that, “In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.” (p. 5) What about the oppressions they were causing—oppression that extends far past taxation?
In my opinion, this annual ritual celebrating the “independence” and “democracy” that was not actually obtained through the declaration must be put to rest. It is insulting the minorities who struggled, and still struggle with their fundamental human rights, it is celebrating the slave owners who wrote it, and it is exemplifying the problem of over-relying on old documents to justify our current situations . The nation and world has greatly evolved since then, and we cannot keep honouring the same, outdated documents and ideas. They will prevent us from developing new ones, and growing to our fullest extent.