“We Hold These Truths” by Phil Lawson (For NCOE Western Region)

by Phil Lawson for the Western Region of the NCOE

We hold these truths to be self- evident that all…. are created equal and are endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…

-Preface U.S. Constitution

We, Elders from the Western Region, members of the National Council of Elders; elders who worked throughout the 20th Century for equality, liberty and justice for all; elders who today continue the struggle for a “more perfect union;” we are appalled at present presidential discussions exhaling the violence of language, the violence of intolerance, and the violence against women, unarmed men, women and children.

We are reminded that “we hold these truths” was a very radical event in a world that was largely dominated by tyrants, according to the Constitution; monarchies and kings who suppressed the practice of all kinds of religions in Europe and who oppressed women.

“We hold these truths…” was an experiment in democracy.  The first crack or light for those who suffered in darkness towards the newness of governance in the world, “of the People, by the People and for the People.”

Our American experiment has not been a steady, progressive line of well-being for all people.  When we slaughter the indigenous people during the only time when immigrants were welcomed…when we burned witches, oppressed women and established a cruel slavery of forced immigrants…when our national guards opened fire on peace workers seeking more just living wages…when we have shot unarmed teenagers, children, men and women in the streets…”We hold these truths to be self-evident.”

We have called none of this pattern of violence as coming from a fanatical Christianity.  We the People have not condemned Christianity.  When Christian fanatics, for over 30 years, terrorized women’s medical clinics and killed medical doctors who were labeled as murderers; when Black men and women were lynched by Christian men; when Christians bombed the Oklahoma City building….we the People did not call that group “baptized killers” or fanatics.

The dictionary definition of a tyrant is “an absolute ruler unrestrained by law or constitution; a usurper of sovereignty.”  We Elders declare that Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, fits that definition.  Donald Trump bases his posture on freedom, when he means power and license.  It does not mean liberty as in the Declaration of Independence which is about the human, all humans, capacity to make decisions for themselves concerning the sustenance of their lives and the way forward.Donald Trump and Congressional leaders, speak of freedom and individualism, which they mean the economic and political power to do what they want to do, with impunity.  That is not freedom, it is license.

We hold these truths….the Declaration of Independence is a very, very radical document spoken in the face of tyranny, monarchs and kings.  We Elders speak this truth today in the midst of our 21st Century tyranny.  The present presidential discussion is simply the United States exercising the terrible oppressions which have come out of our 500- year history of racism, sexism, violence and plantation capitalism.

“We Hold these truths…”

The path through our present tyranny is to again lift the vision of the Preface of the Constitution and the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence.  It is to allow the Spirit and Power of the vision of “e pluribus unum,”‘out of the many, one,’ to cleanse us of our fears of the other; remembering that the others are family members that we have not yet met.

“We hold these truths…”

We, Elders of the West, members of the National Council of Elders, pledge in solidarity with 21st Century justice seekers to keep living towards the vision of the Beloved Community, as Elder Martin Luther King called our goal.  We will continue to struggle for the soul of these United States, and the way of non-violent struggle that Mahatma Ghandi called love.  That is the only way for our democracy to move in the direction of liberty and justice for all.