My love of history blossomed in the seventh grade under the tutelage of an educator who was passionate about history and the lessons to be learned from our past. Our forefathers were brilliant and passionate about history, too. Full of integrity, they were unafraid to take risks: For they not only believed in the ideals they proclaimed, but they designed a nation based upon the tried and true principles of their past. Sure, we can argue that in 1776 women and other minorities were not treated as equals. However, these were the men who recognized the need for change.
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. --The Declaration of Independence, 1776
The allure of the Great American Dream was the idea that--in America--anything is possible. I was swept away by The Great Gatsby in high school. Not by the romance, but by the wealth and power emanating from the page. Yet the more I read, the more its allure evaporated. Corruption, dishonesty and the class system are the protagonists of this novel not only corrupting the essence of that American Dream, but effectively advocating for its glamorous counterpoint: social stratification and the class system.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. --Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, 1787
You need only read the newspaper to see how “The Dream” unravels more and more each day. A prime example is the recent rant of Pastor Charles L. Worley, of the Providence Road Baptist Church, when his message of ignorance and hate went viral. His proposition of dealing with homosexuality mirrors the brutality and torture Hitler implemented among the Jews. I am mortified, sickened and embarrassed at history’s account of the Holocaust, and the cataclysm of ethnic, racial and cultural genocide that resulted in the incineration of an estimated 10M Jews. Yet Pastor Worley, free to express his views on YouTube, reached almost as many when he proposed that gays and lesbians be “rounded up in an electric fence and left to die.” I applaud the clergy who’ve stepped forward to clarify that Christianity does not teach hate but rather acceptance, forgiveness and love. For however we trifle, the freedom of expression, and the legitimate weighing of views, is at the cornerstone of our Founding Father’s ideal of a republic.
Moreover, North Carolina recently threw their hat in the ring of that discussion. Amendment 1, for example, holds that "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.” Invalidating legal marriages performed elsewhere in the nation, Amendment 1 goes way beyond same-sex marriage. This amendment affects both unmarried hetero and homosexual couples. It has long ranging implications for employee benefits in these partnerships including, but not limited to, legal protections regarding domestic violence and stalking, economic development and business recruitment for North Carolina, and the inevitable bottom line of teaching hate and prejudice versus life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness.
Miss North Carolina, Hailey Best, vlogged in opposition of Amendment 1 saying "This is not a gay marriage amendment. It's not a marriage amendment at all. It's to help me protect our single mothers and children. I want to know that a little girl that wants to be Miss North Carolina one day grew up in a state that's equal for all." Go Hailey! Isn’t equality what this is all about? Isn’t it what pushed those early colonial leaders to revolt against their British King in the first place and to fight for and pursue independence? Yet, as the 236 years now confirm, freedom to assemble and freedom of speech doesn’t always lead to equality.
For some, however, and generally in distant lands, the Dream is still worth fighting for. Immigration statistics continue to show a significant increase in the number of people crossing into the United States—from Mexico and South America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and essentially from all over the globe. What pulls them to this place? The flight of Chen Guangcheng from China, for instance, blind from boyhood, advocated against forced abortions and on behalf of the poor in China. And while Guangcheng was arrested and sentenced to serve four years in a Chinese prison on what many believe are false charges, Guangcheng was remanded to house arrest whilst he and his family suffered continued brutality. Finally, this blind dissident escaped from house arrest on April 22, 2012 and fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing where negotiations began for his move to the U.S. Although there are varying accounts regarding the negotiations and resolution, on May 19, 2012, Guangcheng, his wife, and two children boarded a flight to the U.S. where he’s enrolled as a special student in the U.S.-Asia Law Institute at the New York University School of Law.
Was Guangcheng a pawn in the larger scheme of U.S.-China relations? Probably. Yet fleeing to our bastion of ideals, freedom, and opportunity reminds us of the relevancy of the Founder's proposition. While its cast of hope and democracy, it hinges on the American paradox of equality.