“Search for the grain of truth in other opinions,” Richard Carlson suggested this morning as I continued my slow stroll through Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.
Coincidentally, the morning feed brought word that an older person whose opinions rarely coincide with mine had sent out an Independence Day message taking issue with the phrase in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.”
“Equal to what? What men? Only white men? Isn’t it something that they wrote this in 1776 when African Americans were enslaved? … They weren’t thinking about us then, but we’re thinking about us now!”
Well, yes, I said, rather than dismiss the thought, that is probably true. Since those words were penned, the meaning of “all men are created equal” has been reinterpreted to include persons with different plumbing as well as persons with different skin tones than the people who signed the document.
There’s a grain of truth in the statement that in 1776 they weren’t thinking as inclusively as we do nowadays. I suggest, however, that folks who dismiss the ancient author outright consider the revolution those words ignited.
Before Tom Jefferson, that white slave-owning hypocrite, declared that “all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain, unalienable rights,” it was considered a fact of life that some people are created to be better than the rest of us — monarchs, rulers, masters, bosses in general.
If no one had suggested that all men are created equal, other minds may not have been encouraged to expand the definition of “men” to include women, slaves, and other everyday joes who previously accepted the fallacy that they just weren’t entitled to be in the same room as those hoity-toits in charge of their lives.
And that’s why I believe Jefferson is one of the great minds of history, and why I accept that he was no better than you or me and in fact may have been a scoundrel in some ways, because we were created equal and all of us can be devils and angels.
Those who would dismiss ancient wisdom because it was voiced by ancient hypocrites might do well to consider Carlson’s wise advice to “Search for the grain of truth in other opinions.”
Because so much of who we are and what we believe begins, “All … are created equal.”