"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."
Jesus Christ, that's a high bar. I mean, first, the whole "endowed by their Creator" hits the religion thing pretty hard on the nose. For this post, let's just assume that in spite of their vast knowledge of the Magna Carta and the enormously well read nature of our Founding Fathers, they were still sort of a bizarre group of highly superstitious religious types, admit the flaw and move on, OK?
It's that almost comical statement that "all men are created equal." Ignore the fact that they only meant men and only white men and only rich white men. Let's take the phrase as we interpret it today. That WE ARE ALL CREATED EQUAL.
I hate to break it to you but that's complete horseshit.
I mean, c'mon, people. When it comes to physical prowess, I am NOT created equal to, say, Dwayne Johnson. Not even close. When it comes to brain power, you are NOT created equal to Stephen Hawking or Dr. Mae Jemison. We aren't even created with equal potential.
The bar is set too high.
Back in the early nineties, as I entered into the teaching profession as a young, idealistic music educator, the school and philosophy of the Middle School hit me square in the face. Lots of the ideas behind this philosophy (non-scholastic learning, interdisciplinary lessons, critical analysis from the student perspective) were amazing and effective. One of the ideas that did NOT work so well was the concept that there were no "advanced student" classes because having advanced classes ostracized both the "gifted" students as well as the lower achieving, learning disabled students. The agenda became to bring the less gifted kids up to the level of the average and allow the more apt pupils to hover around the average making the quest of the institution a wholly average student body.
Not to get all Ayn Randian on anyone but there is merit in fostering excellence from those capable of it. We do this every single day with gifted athletes and musicians, pushing them to get stronger and achieve more. We fall woefully behind, however, when it comes to teaching those children who have natural cognitive abilities to work harder, to get smarter, to expand their intellectual abilities.
It's inescapable that some of the human race is built better than the rest of us. A woman with no birth defects, no congenital illnesses, no allergies and no propensity for obesity is simply more equipped for life on the planet than a dude born with asthma, serious myopia, peanut allergies and the genetic metabolism of a fucking sea turtle. Certainly hard work and determination contributes to the success of individuals but genetics and political clout has more to do with this than self determination. That is to say, if you're born Chinese in China, Mexican in Mexico, or White in America and are born healthy to a family that has some dough, you will have a far better shot at the basics of the promise: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
WE ARE NOT ALL CREATED EQUAL.
There are two ways to view this fact. It means that, whether we like it or not, some of us are designed (by nature, by nurture, by chance) to be smarter, stronger, better equipped to succeed in life on the planet and they should just get special deference. The rest of us can suck it up and hope that their success and the fruits of it will "trickle down" to the rest of us. The other approach is to take those children and teach them the lessons of superheroes - with great power comes great responsibility.
“There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.”
― Marshall Mcluhan
Like an incredible team of comic book superheroes, we each have a super power. Some of us are strong, some of us have endurance. Some of us are strategic and others are scientific. And every one of us has a debilitating weakness that renders us completely useless.
We are instinctually predetermined to follow the first path. Survival of the Fittest and all that shit. But we all have this incredible computer brain that can, if we decide for it to, defy our natural instincts to dominate and win at all costs and instead walk each other home. Trust me, there's always going to be another Trump. These authoritarian bungfleas pop up constantly. There will always be another Donald Trump, brutal policeman, Mayor Rahm. There will also always be an Elizabeth Warren or Al Franken. And a teacher. And a retired woman working at a Food Bank.
We aren't created equal but we all have the responsibility to make sure that, equal or not, everyone gets that promised Life, Liberty and at least the ability to pursue happiness.