Benjamin Franklin perused the draft of Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. The young Jefferson had hit the crux of the matter: We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There was a problem, he thought, with the great truths.
If they are sacred, then they would be sacred only to those whose beliefs recognized such. Anything can be denied. After all, there were still those who believed the Earth to be flat. The truths of creation were more than sacred and undeniable. They were self-evident. The inherent truth of every person's life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness is obvious, it requires no teaching or training to comprehend. Every born child knows it.
What the Congress was seeking, Franklin knew, was a statement transcending man made law that would appeal to and be understood by anyone, anywhere, at anytime. Franklin drew a line through sacred & undeniable and wrote instead self-evident. It was quite possibly the most important edit in history.
Self-evident. No more would a person's life experience be determined by whatever benefit or privilege was granted by a capricious earth ruler, theology, or regime. The fundamental Right of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness was knowable to all. No longer would any person owe his being to another. It was an earth-shaking reality that terrified tyrants. On September 11, 2001 the earth shook, an aftershock of the declaration of self-evident truth.
On that Tuesday I was at work, but planning to take off the remainder of the week on a camping excursion to Arkansas to work on a novel. There was a buzz, a murmur, going around the various offices. A colleague had a mini-television in her office and was watching the news. She reported that an airplane had crashed into the world trade center in New York. Bizarre, I thought. Although huge, all but the most disabled aircraft should be able to avoid them and land in the water. I went back to my office to clear up my desk.
The second plane struck the other tower. That's no accident. That's an attack. The 21st century was inaugurated with its own Pearl Harbor. My concern went to my daughter who was in Queens, and to friends who worked in Manhattan. Calls and e-mails went out. A young nephew called attention to the obvious: 911 - the date and the emergency call number. I hadn't recognized that until then.
The low-pressure dread in my gut was that my daughter, and her generation, had been violated and thrust into a war as had my parents. My generation were mostly the "cold warriors" whose focus was preventing nuclear war. The Berlin wall came down. Then, the USSR crumbled. Maybe, just maybe the toils of the 20th century were setting the stage for freedom throughout the world - the heritage of those self-evident truths. Yet I know, as an amateur historian, that the struggle for freedom from tyranny is a never-ending cycle, in fact, it seems to be the human drama as individuals learn the truth of their identity and their Rights by relation to the Creator.
The decade since the suicidal attacks on the United States has resulted in more, not less, freedom on Earth. "We, the People" are global. The self-evident rights transcend the repression of tyranny, secular and religious, even in the most dangerous neighborhoods on the planet. I am optimistic. The future of the USA is wonderful. More and more other people learn their self-evident nature and free society expands. 911 is all about freedom. Freedom triumphs.
And, thank you, Dr. Franklin, for your contribution.
|Artifacts from the 9-11-2001 attack|