Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Declaration of Independence & The American Dream

I saw this featured on salon.com. Here's an excerpt from a commencement address given by Greil Marcus:

"Pettit called the Declaration of Independence a lie," Lincoln said in Peoria in 1854, answering a speech by Stephen Douglas. "If it had been said in old Independence Hall 78 years ago, the doorkeeper would have thrown him into the street." ...

There's a way in which you can see every American story as a version of the
Declaration of Independence: every story an attempt to make it true, or prove it
a lie. In 1941, Henry Luce called the 20th century "the American century"; he
meant this was the century when America became a colossus from which the rest of
the world would have to step back, trembling with awe.

But if that American century was truly American, you can almost see Lincoln reminding us -- or, if not Lincoln, the doorkeeper at Independence Hall -- then the story of the
American century is the story of all sorts of previously excluded, marginalized,
scorned, despised, ignored or enslaved people -- laborers, women, African-Americans, Asian Americans, Jews, Latinos, gay men and women -- entering into full citizenship and full participation in national life. If not full citizenship, a more complete citizenship than even Lincoln or the doorkeeper could in fact have imagined -- as, again and again, decade after decade, those echoing words of the Declaration of Independence sounded as if for the first time.

It can be easy to forget this, when people on both the left and the
right tell the story of the country as if it were a story of power, not speech
-- a story of the movements of money and armies, not the acts of men and women,
acting alone or together."

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