“All men are created equal.”
This simple phrase has been the cornerstone of the American belief system for hundreds of years, and yet, so few of us seem to believe it.
But should we? Are we?
It seems the original meaning of this phrase has been perverted. We no longer take it to mean that we are all born with the intrinsic right to be treated equally in regards to our basic needs and to be respected as human beings. (Although, at the time those words were written, we can easily argue that sentiment rang more hollow than even now.) Instead, many of us now, usually of a more conservative nature, take it to mean that we are the “same,” particularly in our abilities and capability to make it in this world. The phrase has too often been twisted in order to deny others help that they may need.
In a culture that prides itself on individualism and often bucks the idea of a collective, particularly if it can be labeled, however correctly or incorrectly, as socialism or communism, too many people also somehow eschew the idea that we also have individual abilities. No, for those of that mindset, being anything but capable stops where their pocketbooks begin. If it means their tax money might have to go to support an individual who isn’t as readily able to make it in this world, suddenly we all must be the same again, with all the same basic abilities. The government should stay out of our lives because we are individuals, we live in a capitalist society, and are not some (cue the horror music) “socialist” country. Yet, not to turn to cliché terms (okay, so, yes, to turn to cliché terms), anyone who isn’t able to pull themselves up but their bootstraps must not be able to because they are lazy or don’t care, not because they are individuals with differences that affect how easily they can rise in society. What any individual is innately able to accomplish cannot vary. We can all be president one day, of course. (Don’t get me started on that “you can be anything you want to be” phrase!)
Riiiiiiight… (We are going to cue the eyerolls here.)
It doesn’t matter that some people don’t even have boots.
It doesn’t matter that some people’s boots are falling apart.
It doesn’t matter that some people don’t have legs or feet to put boots on, or that they have to pay medical bills or college loans rather than buy said boots.
Nor does it matter that one could put their boots on and pull up the straps Every. Single. Day for 40 years and it wouldn’t matter because in a capitalist system, someone always has to be on the bottom, and few can make it to the top. (Do these people even understand capitalism at all?!)
None of this matters because we have been told since early childhood that all men were created equal, and we have repeated that phrase (and the one about being president) over and over again without thinking about it or being taught what it really means and how it actually applies in our life.
Some of us got it, though, and we realize that while being poor, or a minority, or a woman, or disabled or scores of other labels may make life harder far too often, it doesn’t mean we have less intrinsic value. Some of us believe that while we are all created equal, we are not created the same, and that is okay.