I have been thinking about what this day is about. During the American Revolution, the legal separation of the The Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2, 1776. The Declaration of Independence was signed two days later on July 4th.
That’s what we’re celebrating today. All across America, with barbeques, fireworks, pool party games, watermelon, family, friends.
Here is the most famous part of the Declaration:
“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.”
I am going to assume that “men” is referring to people and includes women too, though it was written at a time when women had fewer rights.
So do we have liberty? Did women at the time have liberty? How about people of color? LGBT Americans?
In the North, where states abolished slavery after the Revolution, black women gained rights to marry, to have custody of their children, and to own property. On paper at least, their rights were identical to those of white women. In the South, lawmakers continued to deny enslaved workers these basic human rights. Ensuring rights for Native American women and black women was very difficult due to racism.
All the Single ‘Ladies’ Put Your Hands Up:
The legal status of free women depended upon marital status. Unmarried women and widows had the legal right to live where they pleased and to support themselves in any occupation that didn’t require a license or a college degree restricted to males. Single women could enter into contracts, buy and sell real estate, and accumulate personal property. They could sue and be sued, write wills, serve as guardians, and act as executors of estates.
So…Why would women want to get married? Love. Children. Not to be talked about as a spinster, I suppose. But then it is a choice of having rights or marriage.
When women married, as most did, they still had legal rights but no longer had autonomy and were put into positions of almost total dependency on their husbands.
The laws in each state put women into these positions of reliance. The system that was in place so long ago has been altered, but the system itself and the laws which make it up still do not allow for women to be fully equal members of society to men.
Until this changes, the holiday we celebrate tomorrow is not being celebrated truly to what was declared should be. There is liberty from England. Two hundred thirty six years have passed- I don’t care about England. Not that I don’t care about England, I don’t care about our independence from them. It’s an important part of history but I’m more concerned about my liberty now.
People of color are still dealing daily with racism and are underrepresented in media, government, and in high level positions in corporations.
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Americans do not have equal protection under the law when violence is committed against them, which encourages violence against them. Same sex couples are not legally allowed to marry federally. LGBT Americans are being protested against in schools across the nation during the day of silence, which greatly increases violence against them.
Women are not paid equally to men. Women are being called sluts and objects only for men’s pleasure when they speak up for women’s right to have access to contraception. Women’s rights to choose for their bodies is being taken from them. The word vagina is not an acceptable term for women to use, though it is one of their body parts and laws are being made about it. Women’s access to contraception is at risk. Women are being forced to have vaginal ultrasounds in various states when seeking an abortion, which is essentially rape and blackmail. Women are being left out of committees to determine legislation on birth control. Women are not allowed to participate in major sports events like the Masters Golf tournament.
Let’s talk equality!
It is 236 years later, but not all people of this nation are being treated equally, are liberated, or have equal access to seek happiness.
The Declaration continues:
–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
So basically it says, if the government is not meeting these rights, the people have the right to change the government. This is more than just government, it’s the entire system, but government would be a start, like having equal representation of women and people of color. Something to think about.
As you enjoy the day off and whatever festivities it brings you, remember there was a Declaration of Independence and it says we are all equal and free. We are still fighting for that.
Happy 4th of July!