Here is a guest post by Joy Myers, a 10th grade student writer. Feel free to post comments.
The United States of America is a country founded on equality for all men and women, a country that has never deviated from those principles. It is often said that we are a country that is superior to all other countries, a place where opportunities are available and equal for everyone. We are a country where equality is valued more than anything. People often say that the United States is a country that the rest of the world should imitate because we are simply the very best.
All of these things are principles that Americans choose to believe. They are things that we want to be true, the sugar coated version of our country’s reality. In a country where all of those things are true, life would be wonderful, nearly perfect. It would be the ideal place to live.
However, what if these beliefs are false? Most of the beliefs previously noted are wishful thinking. America might have been founded on the idea of freedom, but we have never quite managed to stick to our beliefs without keeping a few skeletons in our closet.
This country was never a place for Americans. It belonged to the Indians, the native Americans. It was never rightfully ours, we simply took it because we wanted it and because we had the power to do so. That has been a consistent pattern in American history, we take what we want; no matter who we push aside in the process.
Indian tribes such as the Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Choctaw tribes were forced out of their homes to accommodate us. We took their homes and their lives. When we traveled to America we brought diseases that killed large numbers of the Indian population. We thought they were a threat simply because their way of life was different than ours. That is another pattern in America’s history, the idea that different equals bad. Anyone or anything that is different than us is frequently assumed to be wrong. Could it be that we really are a closed minded nation and we always have been?
When the Founding Fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence, they included this phrase:
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.
Notice how they did not say most men are created equal. They chose the phrase all men, and yet, the very men who wrote these words were slave owners. They were participating in a practice that contradicts the very idea that everyone is equal. They were using someone else’s life for their own benefit. Maybe that’s why they wore so many ruffles and wigs, to cover up their hypocrisy.
George Washington, the first president of the newly founded free country, owned over 300 slaves. The fact that someone can be this blatantly hypocritical and so easily have this part of his life forgotten is a bothersome idea. Many presidents that followed after him also followed in this practice. These are the same men that we idolize. The men we teach our children to look up to, the young nation that we use as a pattern for others to follow.
Could it be that America was not founded on equality but on oppression? The voices of the oppressed were silenced, as they have been throughout all of our country’s history. While America was being established as a nation where everyone had the opportunities to live however they would like, our country had entire groups of people fighting just to survive. Their cries for help fell through the cracks and were kept there under lock and key for our own convenience. As a country, we had finally found a little bit of power, and we abused it. The only people who truly had freedom were white, property owning men. Women were allowed very little influence in any aspect of our country, they were not even given the right to vote. Thousands, possibly millions of Indians were killed in America by settlers. About 450,000 slaves were transported to North America, forced to work, live, and die in terrible, inhumane conditions.
Our founders knew how it felt to be oppressed, to be discriminated against and controlled; and yet had no problem with it when they were the ones benefiting. We are a nation, as a whole, who lives for our own benefit.
People have always clung to the idea of progress. Progress is a good thing, but it depends on how it is achieved. Progress does not have to include destruction, but in most cases it does. If one group is benefiting, there is most likely another group that is suffering. The founders may have believed that they were being progressive in taking over a country and claiming it as their own, but the Indians suffered immeasurably from the founder’s actions. In the same way, slave owners in the newly established America looked at the idea of slavery as something that was necessary for them and the country to thrive. The people who frowned upon the idea of slavery could have easily been seen as standing in the way of progress.
America today is the same way it was centuries ago, but instead of covering it up with ruffles and wigs we cover it up with labels such as inclusive or tolerant. As long as we continue to label ourselves with these things anything we say goes.
One of the things many Americans see as progress today is abortion. If we want to take the life of an innocent child because they do not seem to fit into our life plan, then we can do that. Not only do we have the opportunity to do so, but we will be patted on the back for being brave. Since 1973, the United States has aborted about 60,007,125 babies. Millions of innocent lives wiped away without so much as a chance to live. Why is it so inconsequential for us to take a life?
None of these groups of oppressed people were given a voice to speak out against it. All of these lives taken under the justification of a label of progress. When our nation was founded, taking the innocent lives of Indians was seen as progress. They had no voice to fight it. When our nation was young, using other humans as slaves was seen as progress. It was seen as something that we could not live without, something that was a normal part of life. Now, abortion is seen as progress, as a normal part of life. Hurting an entire group of people for our own benefit has always been part of our supposed progress. Today, if you look down on something like abortion, you are seen as standing in the way of the progress of our nation.
We are a hypocritical nation. We always have been. People will cling to any idea that seems beneficial to them. We are experts at tunnel vision, at only seeing what we want to see. We see progress, not violence and discrimination. We see an inclusive, accepting nation, not the self-centered one we truly are. If something is currently seen as acceptable, we are all quick to jump on the bandwagon and agree with it. We have a history of taking the easiest path to get what we want, no matter who we take down on the way. We are very good at hiding the suffering that we do not want to see, all in the name of progress. We are a nation built on hypocrisy, and it is up to us whether or not our future continues on that path.