Friday, July 5, 2024

#187 / Our American Creed

We learn from the article from which the above image was taken that Betsy Ross, quite likely, did not actually sew the first American flag, as popular legend has long asserted. Maybe National Geographic is right, and Betsy Ross didn't sew our first flag, but in thinking about what sort of a picture I should put at the top of this blog posting, our "flag" seemed an appropriate symbol. My topic today is, "Our American Creed." 

Perhaps, you don't think that the United States of America has a "creed," which is defined by Merriam-Webster as "a set of fundamental beliefs." While we do have an officially-adopted "Pledge of Allegiance," which could be thought of as something like a "creed," I don't recall anyone ever trying to teach me, in elementary school, or afterwards, that the United States of America has a "creed," and that I had better memorize it. 

Here is what I submit is "Our American Creed."

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [persons] 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.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted [...] 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.

We have just passed our official Fourth of July holiday for this year, so readers of this blog posting can legitimately be expected to recognize the origin of the statement above. Yes, you are right! This is from our Declaration of Independence. While this Declaration was adopted in 1776, by a bunch of white males, and most of them pretty affluent, I think - a group that is not representative, whatsoever, of our current citizenry - I think it is fair to say that this Declaration retains its validity for us today, and that this Declaration, though now almost 250 years old, still states what we, as Americans, believe. This is our "creed," a set of our "fundamental beliefs." 

Please note the following key points: 

  • "Equality" is our "first principle," and outlines the basis on which our government will operate. As I have pointed out before, it is obvious to us all that we are not in any sense "equal," if "equality" is supposed to denote "similarity," or even "identity." The statement that we are all "created equal" is, in fact, a statement of our radical diversity. We are all different, but despite all these differences - in every aspect of our lives and persons - we demand and claim that we will be given "equal treatment" in the world, no matter what differences may distinguish us, one from another.
  • Second, we have, as citizens of the United States, a continuing right to alter or abolish our current government. This nation began in "revolution," and we assert, as one of our fundamental beliefs, that we retain the revolutionary right to alter or replace our government, when and as we choose. WE are in charge of the government. The government is not in charge of us. 
  • Third, our personal "liberty" consists in our individual ability to pursue what we believe will lead to our "happiness." Our lives belong to us, and not to anyone else.

If the statements found in The Declaration of Independence seem, in fact, to list a set of "fundamental beliefs," and if they do, in fact, constitute a kind of "American Creed," then let us ask ourselves what is always a pertinent question: "How Am I Doing?" If the question is posed in the kind of collective perspective that is most appropriate, when we take account of the fact that we are all "in this together," then the question becomes this one: "How Are WE Doing?"

It seems to me, speaking personally, that we could be doing a lot better!

1 comment:

  1. This is well stated. It's time to concede that it's true that "There's no us and them, just a lot of US" We are varied in many senses of origin, beliefs, values, ethnicities, and more, much more. We need respectful debate, not name calling, we need the equal right to register and vote. My grandparents all came here for the opportunity then extant in America. Now we need to make sure that we restore those opportunities, equally.


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