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Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

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By Ron Merk

As we approach the 4th of July, our American Independence Day, I think it’s a good idea to remind ourselves why we fought our revolution, and what we got for our efforts. In the USA and around the world, the fight continues for human rights for every man, woman and child.

The revolution is alive as along as we continue to fight the good fight to assure that all our citizens are treated equally in the law. The last “minority” to receive its rights in our imperfect union are gay people, with the smashing of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and the crushing of Proposition 8 in California which took away the constitutional right of a “special class” of people to live their lives and marry those they love.

That does not mean that racism or prejudice is gone forever. Look at the Paula Deen debacle. Think about those funny “Polish” jokes that we hear (often with the ethnicity swapped for the target of the day.)

The one thing that seems so simple is that if we treat everyone with respect and kindness, too, that it will be a better world.

Two days ago I watched footage on the internet of Gay Pride celebrations in Turkey… yes, Turkey, a country ruled by a right wing Islamic fundamentalist party. For weeks the citizens of Turkey have been protesting the destruction of a park in Istanbul where yet another “mall” would be built. This protest sparked a nationwide protest against the government, which just dug its heels in deeper into the necks of its people, pounded them with water cannons, and blasted them with tear gas and pepper spray. They are brothers and sisters of the “Occupy” movement, and very brave. Anyone who stands up against an armed police force with nothing but protest signs and flags has guts, and I support them.

But it doesn’t take too much braveness to stand up and say no. We can fight in many ways against injustice and tyranny. We can demand that our politicians do the right thing, or we will vote them out of office. We can insist that corporations keep their hands off our democracy, or we will boycott their products and services. We do not lack the weapons to bring down the tyrannies of capitalism and mad religious fundamentalism, both of which care little for the people. The first step is simple: Say NO to something, loudly and resoundingly. Then say YES, to those with whom you feel kinship and common interest. Get organized, get moving, and get results.

I once said that I wouldn’t write anything in this column that was political. I don’t think I have done so. Demanding human rights to be the same for everyone on this planet is not political at all. It’s our basic right as members of the human race. It’s the right thing to do. Thomas Jefferson said it better than anyone.

The United States Declaration of Independence, which was primarily drafted by Thomas Jefferson, was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. The text of the second section of the Declaration of Independence reads:

“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.”