Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Truer words were never misspoken – except if you are God. The problem is that these words were penned into our constitution not by the almighty, but by mortals, and as if they represented some literal fact, rather than some figurative wish.
This country’s founding fathers (FF), most notably Thomas Jefferson, made a bold declaration to the English that there would be no more of this rule-by-blood nonsense in America. And so as not to water down their argument and still justify slavery, they slipped in the blacks-as-3/5-of-a-man clause – albeit temporary.
Of course, what the FF’s did not consider was how some, no matter their originating backwater, would purposely, or inadvertently, confuse the meaning arising from their constitutional boldness. Whereas, they meant ‘equal in the eyes of God’, it was too often taken as equality of result.
The figurative ideal became the literal notion that if one man is rich, all men should be rich, or an injustice has been done. This is in place of men having a reasonably fair shot at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – but without guarantee.
Many blacks and whites look to the status of blacks, or the poor, somehow as proof of constitutional misapplication. And yes, the rules of this country have indeed been bent, folded, stapled and mutilated in order to reserve benefit for some. But even with this, the opportunity for achievement has remained for those who wanted it badly enough, whatever the promises. It remains for those with the will to sacrifice, not for others, but for themselves and their loved ones. They know there is more to success than someone handing you the win – like wanting it badly enough to take it, freely offered or not.
The chance to learn by dim light, worn books, dull pencils, challenged teachers, crumbling buildings, et cetera, was the only real promise back then, and, though updated, is the same today. The toe wedged into the door becomes passage for the legs, arms, torso and head, but only by unrelenting will. And so it is, sadly for some, truly for all.
James C. Collier
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