I hear there are folks out there who want nothing taught or suggested in schools that might imply that the United States has not always been a trusted arbiter of truth, justice, and the American Way. That might even imply that the American Way has not always been the best way. They want it laid down in stone that there is, in fact, an American Way to which we have always held in the best interests of all involved. And that questioning that premise is, in fact, a kind of treason.
And yet without questioning whether or not the premise that all men are created equal was true, not even all white males would have been granted the vote. In the earliest years of this republic, true citizenship was granted only to people of property. In fact, the expansion of the vote to all white males, regardless of economic status, sometimes came with a few steps backward.
For example, New Jersey revised its state constitution to abolish property requirements in 1807, but at the same time prevented all women from voting (even wealthy ones who had been allowed to vote there since 1776) as well as all free blacks.
I have no doubt that there was a vigorous conversation between the ideal of equality and the reality of the average working white man that took place state by state until almost every white male was able to vote. I say almost, because apparently it was 1840 until 90% of the white male population was enfranchised. It was a conversation that seems to have beguiled the nation for over 50 years.
Conversations have ensued regarding issues from slavery to marriage equality, all of them stemming from the premise of our Founders that we, humankind, have all been born equal and have an equal claim to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. All of them questioning, not the premises of our Foundation, but its applicability to all
We were not created as a perfect union. The constitution itself recognizes this fact. We were created “… in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity …”
It is in our questions that we have continued to attempt the creation of that more perfect union. It is in the conversation that reality has insisted upon having with our founding ideals that this attempt is even possible. To shut down the conversation is to shut down all possibility of movement toward a more perfect union. It is to blast the dreams of the Founders into oblivion and set us instead on a course toward irrevelance.