Over the last year or two we’ve witnessed public figures and others on social media claiming America was never great. There is a growing anti-American sentiment too many are buying into. The most common reasoning or excuse I hear for it is that our Founding Fathers were slave owners.
Let’s face facts and reality. It has taken generations for America to live up to the ideals and principles enshrined in our Declaration of Independence – beginning with our founders and up through Martin Luther King, Jr.. This has not made us worse; it has made us better — not perfect, but much better.
Slavery is often used to discredit the wisdom and contributions of the Founding Fathers. Our Revolutionary War began to change the national attitude about the meaning of freedom. The Founding Fathers kicked this off with the Declaration of Independence. Some of our founders vigorously complained that Great Britain forcefully imposed upon the colonies the evil of slavery. Thomas Jefferson heavily criticized the British policy.
Our wise founders knew full well when demanding our freedom from tyranny it would require wisdom and ideals many in our nation would not and could not live up to at the moment. It has taken more than 180 years to get here.
Christian author Ravi Zacharias once said, “We should never judge a philosophy by its abuses, but by its truths.” This is true of the philosophy, principles and values enshrined in our Declaration. Just because only some of the founders opposed slavery and some did not choose to end it immediately does not negate the truth in our Declaration that “All men are created equal” and are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty.”
It took more than 180 years of struggle between Americans to arrive at a national point of view in harmony with the ideals and principles of the Declaration. Slavery no longer exists in the United States, and civil rights have been assured to all people in our nation.
Over the 4th of July Holiday, Colin Kaepernick tweeted a portion of a speech by Frederick Douglass.
“What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? ... This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. ...There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloodier, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.”
But context matters. If Mr. Kaepernick read the entire speech, he would know Frederick Douglass was staunchly anti-slavery but was hardly anti-American. In the very same speech, Douglass said, “I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. ...While drawing encouragement from ‘the Declaration of Independence,’ the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age .... Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country.”
The Colin Kaepernicks of this world are blind to the blood and sacrifices of those who came before us to gain freedom and rights for black Americans. It’s an insult to them, an insult to their sacrifices, and an insult to the true progress that America has made.