Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Natural Law? Self-Evident Truths?

The Declaration of Independence is supposed to be an all-inclusive document that states the wonderful privileges of being a United States citizen. Growing up as an American citizen you learn that all your rights and all the governing principles of the United States are present in one relatively short declaration. But really, if you think about when the declaration was written, and where we are now, 200 and some odd years later, you start to question if the same principles are relevant or even fairly stated in relation to today.

The declaration states “all men are created equally.” It is of old news to bring up the fact that “women” are inextricably excluded, however, the term “created” also holds much connotation with the belief of creationism, which not all American citizens possess. Who decided that all men would holds “these truths” (what truths?) to be so self-evident? Indubitably, the old white Christian men who penned the declaration. Their faith and belief in the monotheistic religion of Christianity dictated how the truths as they saw them would be understood. In simpler terms, the truths are left up to God. Believe in Him, and you will understand why things are the way they are.

Now obviously, this leaves a lot of wiggle-room and grey areas. What about those citizens who are atheistic? Or practice another religion which was not acknowledged in the 18th century public opinion? Many questions begin to unravel when we take a modern look at such an old yet decisively dictating document.

Moreover, there is a line of hypocrisy that crosses through the words on the page. On the one hand it is plausible to forgive notes of prejudice; after all it was written many years ago and tolerance was no where near what it is today. However, if the words state that “all men are created equally,” one ignores that people of color and women were totally omitted from this original idea. What is troublesome is that although both women and people of color became accepted into the ideals of the declaration of independence, there are still lines of degradation, subjugation, and other forms of oppression that take place every day in the United States.

As a woman, it is frustrating to realize that there are still benefits to having male sexual organs…forgive the crude word choice. But in this day and age, women are indeed able accomplish many things which the forefathers (aka writers of the declaration) never would have imagined. And yet, despite the progression, there are still many many cases of injustice which exhibit lack of the ability to pursue happiness, liberty, and life to the fullest extent. One such issue surrounds the abortion debate as well as debates with birth control and rights of sexual autonomy.

Regarding sexual autonomy and the debates surrounding abortion rights, considering these questions about the Declaration of Independence becomes a fundamental basis on which larger questions arise. For instance, if women presumably hold the same rights as all citizens, (the right to pursue happiness and freedom for example), arguably they should be allowed to retain sexual privacy. The issues creep in from all sides. Questions of life, of morality, of judgment, of law and of history begin to break up the issue of abortion into many sectors of opinion. When each individual opinion or public opinion of one group holds their belief to be “self-evident” and “true,” there naturally will be clashes and fights. Natural law can only be natural if all beings abiding by said laws are in agreement of the laws’ origins. Like I said previously, if all individuals do not believe in a Christian God, then some people or groups of people might hold their self-evident truths to be true for a completely different reason.

Perhaps it is time to write a new Declaration of Independence, to include the rights of women and of minorities. To state where these self-evident truths should originate from, and to show that in a country with over 300 million people, there must be diversity and there will always be cases where one person’s truths will clash with their neighbor’s.

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