That’s what our Declaration of Independence stated. But it wasn’t true. In fact, African-Americans were considered three-fifths of a person and held in slavery for nearly a hundred years longer. Native Americans were slaughtered and herded onto reservations in order to steal their land. Chinese-Americans were virtually enslaved to build our railroads. And women were denied the right to vote for nearly 150 years.
Even today equality still does not exist.
People of color are many times more likely to live in poverty and to be imprisoned. Gay and lesbians are only now beginning to win equal rights to marry those they love. Women are paid less for doing the same work as men. And, according to some, the plight of the wealthy is even worse. They claim to be victims of their own success and good fortune – that they are victims of class warfare. Some have even likened their plight to the Jews prior to the Holocaust.
The wealthiest one percent of our population owns an overwhelming percentage of the wealth in the US yet, thanks to loopholes, they pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes. They invest large portions of their wealth in offshore tax havens. They use their wealth to buy influence and access to government. They are even treated differently by our courts. The Supreme Court ruled that money equals free speech, so they can speak more loudly than anyone else. (In fact, the Koch brothers are now using their money to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.) And if they break the law, they are seldom punished.
You may remember the case of the Texas teen found to be suffering from “Affluenza.” Despite the fact that he killed four people as the result of drunk driving, he was “sentenced” to an exclusive, and expensive, rehab facility.
Now there is the case of a duPont heir who was given probation for raping his three-year-old daughter because the judge decided that he “wouldn’t do well in prison.” Wouldn’t do well? Who does? When have you ever heard of a case in which a court was concerned that a poor person might not do well in prison? Some celebrate Sheriff Joe’s “Tent City” which imprisons ordinary citizens in tents without heat or air conditioning; with no toilets or running water; with punishments of bread and water; with two vegetarian meals a day (Sheriff Joe recently decided that even his notorious green baloney sandwiches are too expensive and cutting into the profit margins of his wife’s food service business). Has any court ever voiced concern that a convicted felon might not do well there? No…more like HELL NO!
Prisoners in Tent City have died from the heat without repercussions to Sheriff Joe or the facility. Yet no court has worried that other prisoners in the facility “wouldn’t do well.” Such concern is only voiced for the very wealthy on the rare occasions their highly-paid attorneys fail to get them acquitted.
All men created equal? It was a nice sentiment by Jefferson and the Founding Fathers. But it’s still only a dream.