244 Years Later
It’s 2020 — two hundred and forty four years after our first revolution — and America is still trying to decide whether we, as a people, actually want to live up to this country’s deepest, most fundamental principles:-
“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.–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.”
This quote, of course, is the beginning of the Declaration of Independence. As written, it’s a statement of our founding fathers’ belief and hope in what America could and should become. If you read it carefully and think deeply about what it’s asserting and promising, you will realize that today we, as a people, are not sure the struggles and the sacrifices embedded in this declaration of faith and hope are worth the effort it’s taking to realize this vision…
Think even more deeply and you will realize that it’s possible a good number of us don’t actually understand what this declaration promises, and consequently are no longer sure the struggles our first revolution bequeathed us are worth the sacrifice.
I believe the revolutionary values and principles our founding fathers laid out in the Declaration of Independence are worth the effort and the sacrifices required.
However, the way that America’s dominant mythology is telling our story, it’s possible for each of us to believe that America has had but one revolution — The Revolutionary War of 1776 — and that in this war, America’s victory over Great Britain secured our independence and out democratic ideals. War won. Vision realized…
For me, the truth is more complicated than this. If America has had just one revolution, then surely this revolution is one that’s unfinished. On the other hand, if America hasn’t had just one revolution, but instead has had several, then it’s fair to suggest that, as a country, we probably have had at least four revolutions — some successful and others not. And that, given the protests, riots, and brutal reactions that have happened this week, we’re just now in the beginning stages of America’s fifth revolution.
At the moment, I think the idea that America has had four revolutions, some successful and some unfinished, is closer to the truth.
America’s first four revolutions were the Revolutionary War of 1776, the Civil War of 1861, the Civil Rights Movement starting in 1954, and the Social Justice Movements that have swept through 21st century America during the last decade, especially the Occupy Wall Street Movement in 2011, the Black Lives Matter Movement in 2013, and the #MeToo Movement in 2017.
Bringing It All Together
If you look deeply enough, it’s clear the events of the last two weeks are trying to force us to revamp our sense of racial justice in this country. But, beyond this, these same dynamics are also showing us why the revolution our founding fathers started for us in 1776 is still today very much “our unfinished business.”
The protests, riots, and police brutality we’ve witnesses over the last several days are asking us to summon the decency and the courage we need to finally acknowledge the systemic racism bequeathed to us by our founding fathers. More than this, these riotous days are also asking us to reexamine and reaffirm our commitment to the liberal democratic principles, values, and ethics that our founding fathers embedded in our constitution.
Thanks for reading this article. You can find more information about America’s four revolutions, and the one that is just now beginning to take shape at America’s Next Revolution.