“We hold these truths to be self-evident…”
When contemplated from historical and global perspectives—across times and cultures—as well as from a spiritual perspective, what becomes evident is that some of “these truths” are myths.
1. All people are born with certain inalienable rights, among them, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
If humans are born with any right, it might be that of a free will. Even that is suspect, as there is no specific mention of “free will” in the Holy Scriptures. We may wish it otherwise, but by virtue of being alive, we have no right to even the next breath.
2. Love matters.
Of course, it does. But here I am referring to the belief that love should be a factor in choosing one’s life partner—and that love in some way entitles two people the right to be together. This myth has grown out of the literature of Western Civilization, but Americans have taken this to a whole new level by basing major life decisions on it. How’s that working out for you, ‘Merica?
3. If you work hard, you can achieve anything.
This is the American dream. Now, time to wake up. Dreams aren’t real. This does occasionally happen, but certainly not as a rule.
4. Manifest Destiny
It wasn’t destiny, it was just human nature—selfishness and greed.
5. Land of the Free
That sounds nice, but Americans are much less free than almost any democracy in the world because of overregulation and over-litigation. In fact, we aren’t even free to enter a supermarket without shoes or a shirt. We are not free to ride in the back of a pick-up truck. Even our dogs aren’t free to run off leash. Inherent in freedom is the ability to take risks, but we have mitigated a great many of life’s risk with law, rules and policy—at the expense of our freedom.
6. Home of the Brave
A citizenry that curtails its own freedom to the extent we have cannot rationally or logically be called brave. Further evidence of our lack of bravery is the fact that to feel safe, we require something no other country requires—the world’s largest military, larger than next 12 militaries combined. We have a fighting machine that only alien power could overtake, and out of fear, fear, fear we continue to make it even more ridiculously large. A country’s fear factor may rightly be measured by the size of its military.
7. Loss of American life is tragic.
Would any reasonable person assert that one American life has more value than one Iranian life or one North Korean life? Is not all human life equally sacred? And yet, almost every film that juxtaposes loss of American life with loss of some other human life carries the overt or underlying assumption that “they” are expendable and “we” are not. In American media, our loss of life is deserving of more grief than the loss of their lives. In reality, Americans kill more Americans than anyone else. Just under 7,000 American lives have been lost in the Afghan and Iraqi wars from 2001 to the present. But last year alone, we murdered more than 15,696 of each other.
From 1775 to the present, Americans have lost approximately 2.2 million lives in wars with foreign powers. In the Civil War, we took 750,000 of our own lives—50 percent more than were lost in both World Wars combined.
And yet, these death tolls are miniscule compared to the number of American fetal lives we end each year. From 2005 to 2012, according to the CDC, women have ended the human lives of 6,336,511 fetuses. 7 years. 3 times the loss of American life in all military conflicts combined. Consider this:
Annual U.S. military spending: $600 billion. Military casualties: 400 lives a year.
Annual U.S. law enforcement spending: $100 billion. Murders: 15,000 lives a year.
Annual U.S. public funding for family planning: $8 billion. Abortions: 700,000 lives a year.
Loss of any life is tragic, but clearly, we are not concerned enough with loss of American life to allocate resource to our greatest hemorrhage.
8. [Disclaimer: I am about to piss off anyone I missed with #7.] Our service men and women have fought and died for our freedom.
This is surely the most sacred myth on this list—far more so than even our inalienable rights! Patriots, don’t hate me for speaking truth, but in most of the conflicts in U.S. history, our freedom was not at stake, national interests were. I feel it is important to be honest about the role of our military, particularly in the conflicts of our times. It does young men and women a disservice to glorify the role of our military as they endeavor to make the choice to serve or not. I am grateful for all those who have chosen to serve in the military (as I also did). Our military has played an incredibly important role on the world stage, most notably during World War 2. It is ALL THAT. We have fought for many good causes, where loss of our freedom has not been an imminent threat. We have also fought in conflicts that amounted to little more than land-grabbing. I love that the Civil War resulted in the emancipation of slaves, but even that war was not about freedom. Emancipation for slaves provided the North with a sorely needed moral high ground. One hundred and fifty years later, we are still invoking freedom as a sorely needed moral high ground.
9. [Giving politics a rest now.] America is a player in end times, and thus spiritually important.
This myth may not be so widely known, but let me assure you that in Evangelical Christian circles, it is commonly held that we are in the biblical end times and our country has some key role in that process. In fact, there is no biblical support for the United States having a role in end times, and no indication that our nation even exists in end times. Babylon probably thought it was pretty important to end times too—particularly because it is actually named in the Holy Scriptures. And yet it rose, ruled for 300 years then fell and, alas, life goes on. (Interesting side note: The Kassites conquered the Babylonians and ruled for 400 years. Who’s ever heard of the Kassites? My spellchecker doesn’t even recognize that as a word. Will spellcheckers of the future recognize “American”?) If I were a betting woman, my money would be on Babylon coming back a third time over the United States fulfilling the role of the Babylon of Revelations 18.
10. Happily Ever After
A lovely myth to end on. Again, this myth didn’t start with our culture, but we have embraced it in our storytelling, movies and life expectations, and if any country owns it now, we certainly do. Thanks, Disney, for building up in us a false expectation that everything works out in the end. Surely, everything will work out for the good of those who are called according to God’s purpose, but in the interim, just a whole lot of people will live and die without ever getting their happily ever after.
An afterword: Those who don’t know me probably think I must be some cynical, bitter old cow. The old cow part might be true, but I am actually a “glass half full” kind of gal. Further, I love my United States of America. I cannot sing the national anthem without choking up, and not out of blind nationalism, but out of an experiential knowledge of just how great this country is. I have lived more than four years on two other continents and travelled to many countries, and I could never see myself being so happy as I am in my motherland. I also love my fellow Americans. I so long for us to live up to our own ideals. We do ourselves a disservice to be anything but honest about who we are and what we believe. We are great; we can be better. God bless America.
Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_casualties_of_war; https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/latest-crime-statistics-released; http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/18/health/abortion-fast-facts/; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_and_dependencies_by_number_of_police_officers; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_planning_in_the_United_States; https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/publicly-funded-family-planning-services-united-states?gclid=Cj0KEQiA3Y7GBRD29f-7kYuO1-ABEiQAodAvwPpwt3gvA73aqtRzEokeEeh-2z61jtqIcHxMHMSJHvoaAhfC8P8HAQ