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All Men Are Created Equal

It just isn’t the Fourth of July without the 1812 Overture. Full version, with the cannons and all. I realize this makes me sound very much like a Massachusetts native, but I am what I am. I grew up watching the Pops every year on the fourth and I am so old now that I can remember all the way back to when Arthur Fiedler was conducting, though I was quite young at the time. I wait patiently through the concert every year until those opening notes and am so excited when it is time. I know the piece so well that I realize what it is when it starts. I know by many it is not considered the best bit of classical composition there is, but it will always hold a soft space in my heart. It is just such an integral part of Independence Day in Massachusetts.

Public acknowledgement of the Independence Day has a long history in Massachusetts. In 1781, before the Revolution even officially ended, Massachusetts was the first state to declare the Fourth an official state holiday. This seems fitting given that some of the earliest battles of the Revolution were fought on Massachusetts soil. And while it did not become an official federal holiday until 1941, it has been celebrated since the eighteenth century with fireworks, speeches, barbecues, and picnics.

Independence Day marks the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress in 1776. Drafted primarily by Thomas Jefferson and signed by men from the original colonies, the Declaration states: “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.”

This is a promise that was made by America to its citizens on July 4, 1776. It is, however, a promise that it has not always kept. From the subjugation of women, who did not even have the right to vote until well into the twentieth century, and even now we do not have equal rights guaranteed in the US Constitution, to the abomination of slavery which continued until the mid-nineteenth century, to the stealing of land from the indigenous inhabitants of this country, to those we did not keep that promise. Then there was the internment of Japanese, German, and Italian Americans during World War II, the Jim Crow policies of the South, the treatment of those who are LGBTQIA, which can still be an issue to this day in some places, to those we have not kept that promise. The Americans with Disabilities Act, barring discrimination against those with disabilities and forcing accommodations, was not passed until 1990 and there are still places where that is not followed, we are not always keeping the promise to those with disabilities either.

It saddens me that we have not always kept this promise. But it also gives us something toward which we can strive. It is always good to have a goal, and we have an excellent goal. Everyone is created equal (men, women, nonbinary, et cetera) and has equal rights and are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and these are unalienable rights endowed by our creator. Together, let us move toward this end.

by Julie Morse

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