Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Oh, say can you see

Four score and seven years ago, and then another seven score and change, the founding fathers brought forth on that continent over there, a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

On this fourth of July when the Americans celebrate their independence of us, and we raise our glasses to our dependence on them, it’s not a bad idea to draw up a bit of a report card to check on progress made.

Founding principles: all men are created equal
Those men in ‘all men are created equal’ didn’t include women, who only got the vote seven score and some years later, in 1920. They certainly didn’t include blacks, practically all of whom were slaves, and who in any case only counted for three-fifths of a human: according to the Constitution, the population of the States were to be reckoned ‘excluding Indians not taxed, but including ‘three fifths of all other Persons’. 

So all men are created equal, unless they’re women or only equal to three fifths of other men.

Well, there’s no doubt that we’ve come a long way since those dark days.

Women and blacks can vote now. Sometimes the glass ceiling above women’s heads seems to be receding a bit. And of course a woman occupies the post of Secretary of State (and she might have been President, of course).

Outside its borders, the commitment of the United States to principles of equality and democracy has had huge impact. It seems extremely unlikely to me that nineteenth-century Europe would have moved away from its firmly, slavishly aristocratic ways without the beacon of the US to show that things could be different.

Why, that influence even dragged Britain into the early twentieth century, granting votes to some women, at least, marginally ahead of the US.

In fact, if we can just turf out the Etonians who are trying to run us like those self-same nineteenth-century aristocrats, men who know they are simply entitled to rule, we could even see Britain move slowly into twenty-first century. Perhaps after the next elections, in 2015.

US democracy has therefore had a beneficial effect in Europe. In Iraq? In Afghanistan? In Vietnam? Less clear. But, hey, there’s always work in progress.

Meanwhile, with young black men more likely to go to gaol than to university, that's an area where the US still has serious progress to make. Still, there’s hope even in that fraught field.

After all, the country has elected its first half-white President. And may even re-elect him later this year.

Even if that election cost a woman that post, it
’s quite impressive enough to warrant celebration.

So, to all our cousins over the sea: enjoy a great Independence Day.


waggledook said...

so then... how much of a human being is Obama according to the constitution? If he is, as you say, half white then I suppose the mathematics get a little complicated.

Essentially, half of Obama is fully half a man, while the other is only three fifths of a man. I make it four fifths. Is that right?

David Beeson said...

You figures are right. But here's the complication: he's still far more of a fine man than his opponent for the November election. What does that do to the mathematics?