JULY IV MDCCLXXVI
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
Those words, written by Thomas Jefferson were officially adopted on this day, July 4, of 1776. They are, of course, the introduction to the Declaration of Independence—alongside the Constitution, the most important and revered document in the history of our nation. Knowledge of our own history is woefully declining, but with hope most Americans know the phrase "Taxation Without Representation:" one of the most salient cries of the American revolution, it embodies the American struggle for self-determination and nationhood.
While dissolution from union with the Crown was not the immediately preferred option, it was the necessary one: for, when those who hold power refuse to extend their power, their right, and their privilege to those without power, it becomes incumbent upon those who, not having equality of representation, or of self-determination, or of freedom, no longer desire to live a life wherein others enjoy liberties and responsibilities not applicable to themselves to stand up for their right and to assert their dignity before the face of Man in their demand for equal treatment.
There is a trend as of late (especially among those who seek to restrict freedoms to a certain pool of similarly-aligned individuals) to revert to the founding fathers, and to produce various quotes which rectify and strengthen their positions. And while unfair taxation was indeed a significant catalyst for American independence, it in no way represents the taxes of today; for those taxed in yesteryear were done so with no legal representation in Parliament; their only ability to refuse taxes was, in fact, to revolt. We have today an incredibly vocal, if not disproportionately small minority who, holding a worldview contradictory to the path of our Nation, hold taxes legally enabled by politicians elected to represent at least a narrow majority of Americans to be indicative of the kinds of abuses which our Forefathers suffered at the hands of the British. They seek to enact legislation giving preference to those of their own race and creed, and to circumvent the First Amendment to our Bill of Rights by introducing into our government a certain Christian ideal used to justify at various times such things as anti-immigrant feelings and the oppression of the LGBT community.
To them I would like to identify the epitaph that Thomas Jefferson crafted for himself:
"HERE WAS BURIED THOMAS JEFFERSON AUTHOR OF THE DECLARATION OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE OF THE STATUTE OF VIRGINIA FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND FATHER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA."
Even more highly than his tenure as President of the United States did Jefferson value religious freedom, an unfortunate fact for those who wish to use the words of our freedom fighters to oppress. But perhaps even more indicative of Jefferson's zeal for individual liberty is the quote chosen to represent him to eternity. Lining the frieze immediately below the dome of the Jefferson Memorial in the Federal City lies a quote of his so perfectly emblematic of his philosophy that it has been impossible to extract it from my mind henceforth:
"I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.
Given our founding fathers' admiration of classicism, including the unescapable architectural parallels between the Jefferson Memorial and the Pantheon, it seems only appropriate to cite Plato's definition of a tyrant as "one who rules without law, looks to his own advantage rather than that of his subjects, and uses extreme and cruel tactics—against his own people as well as others." Therefore, tyranny over the minds of man would seem to be any imposition upon an individual's freedom that is not derived from their consent, but, rather, to the advantage of the individual doing the imposing.
Laws banning freedoms selectively because a majority or powerful minority desires that another minority not have said freedom are as anti-Jeffersonian as I can imagine. Of course, I am currently the victim of such Tyranny: to varying extents and in various locales are imposed the will of a misled and frequently hateful crowd who, disagreeing with the conduct I engage in as a wholly naturally predilection seek to curb my freedoms as a Gay Man to love, to have a family, to have equal freedoms and protections.
Indeed, as Jefferson penned in that most famous of quotations in the Declaration of Independence, all men are in fact created equal. It is unfortunate that so many should seek to ignore this, and in the vein of that great oppressor George III impose tyranny over the minds of man.
The true American spirit lies not in love of this land but in the love of its ideals; Patriotism comes not from knowing that America is the best, but rather, that knowing that every individual is the best, and as such, deserves the same rights and freedoms as ourselves. This is not limited to every American, but extends to every human alive, for the words Jefferson used are not "all Americans are created equal" or "Tyranny over the minds of Americans;" but rather are extended to every man.
The American spirit is an indomitable acknowledgment of the universality of freedom. Any attempts to limit freedom to a select group, be it Christians, or heterosexuals, or Americans, or Caucasians is in unavoidable opposition to the ideals upon which this country was founded and lie more significantly in vein with those whose oppression inspired the developments of such beliefs.
And so, with that: Happy Fourth of July. May you all seek to bring about freedom and equality to every human everywhere.