Commentary: Nation moving further apart as we go forward

“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.”

Beginning with these words America’s founding fathers demanded independence from an English king. Apparently they, like their white European predecessors, believed that only they were entitled to those rights. They believed themselves superior to the Native Americans they conquered and the Africans they held as slaves.

These non-whites were deemed less than “men” and were therefore denied those rights. The founders also felt and acted superior to the women in their lives. They were the “masters of the house.” These same men would eventually write the Declaration of Independence and create our Constitution that for decades granted the “unalienable rights” solely to white men.

Despite Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of Jan. 1, 1863, it wasn’t until Dec. 6, 1865 that slavery was abolished with the 13th Amendment. On Aug. 13, 1868 the 14th Amendment finally gave citizenship and the right to vote to males regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude”. It took another 52 years before the 19th Amendment was ratified on Aug. 26, 1920 to finally give women full rights of American citizenship along with the right to vote.

Our nation was founded by and has grown and prospered because of immigrants. However, many groups of immigrants encountered hard times upon their arrival. Italians, Poles, Irish, Chinese and others lived in slums until they could earn enough to better their conditions. They were forced into the menial jobs that the “real’ white Americans considered too hard or beneath them.

In the 1840s, the Irish took the low-paying and dangerous jobs as police and firefighters to survive. Few “Americans” would labor to build railroads so Chinese immigrants were “invited” to take on the hard work and labored to complete the Transcontinental Railroad. The Chinese Exclusionary Act of 1868 stopped further Chinese immigration and prevented citizenship for the Chinese already here. These are just two examples of what continues even today

Without imported or immigrant food workers, most of them Hispanic, we Americans would not have the abundance and high quality of food that we enjoy.

The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that six out of 10 food workers are undocumented; others are documented guest workers. Despite the fact that they are law abiding while here and pay taxes like citizens, all are subject to arrest and detention based upon appearance. This is what happened in Mississippi on Aug. 7 to 680 workers. They do the jobs that “real” Americans avoid such as harvesting, hauling, butchering, shucking and the like. These low-paid workers are exploited for greater profits by employers who know that they cannot complain.

Archaeology and geneticists have found Homo sapiens of dark skin who existed some 300,000 years ago in East Africa. The “races” we speak of today are peoples who, due to migration, evolved and developed various physical features adapted to where they settled. Immigrants and people whose skin isn’t pink (white?) are often treated as inferior in this nation.

Quite simply, our “white” ancestors succeeded because they had better weapons. They conquered the native populations with the firearms based upon the 10th century “fire lance” invented in China which used the black powder created there in the ninth century. Is this conquest a valid reason for the belief in “white supremacy?”

All people, regardless of gender, skin color, ethnicity, facial characteristics, or physical stature, are “…created equal… .” They learn, create, innovate, and demonstrate their intelligence and their worth to society. All individuals deserve to be respected and should show respect to all others because we are ALL members of this single HUMAN race.

White “superiority” has always existed in the U.S. It caused the Civil War! It was evident in the 1960s as “others” worked to obtain their full civil rights. Within these past 10-plus years, the election of President Obama catalyzed some people to overtly express their derision of “the others.” The candidacy and election of President Trump has encouraged even more people to openly, sometimes violently, express their resentment of “the others.”

This president’s derisive and divisive words towards Hispanics, female representatives and his inhumane actions promote and condone attitudes of misogyny, racism, xenophobia, homophobia and hatred. His administration is reminiscent of oppressive European governments of the 20th century.

I, a white male, was raised in a family that, within itself, was openly prejudiced. However, they interacted with all people and dealt with them respectfully. I have spent seven decades living in an America that has slowly and rather grudgingly moved toward “… a more perfect union…” wherein all of its citizens and its governments’ representatives could disagree but would work to reach compromises for the benefit of all citizens.

People of different cultures have been sharing their knowledge and skills, getting to know and respect each other, and working toward the reality of “… one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

What I see today is tearing our nation apart!

Alan Gaddis is a resident of Dover.

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