By Charles Kiker
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness . . .” (from the Declaration of Independence)
All men are created equal? Probably the founding fathers were not using the masculine term “men” in the generic sense of “mankind.” It would seem they meant men. And more specifically white men. At least few if any of them treated females or people of color as their equals.
Is a broadened equality desirable? An equality more comprehensive than that mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, to encompass all humankind, is that kind of equality something we should strive for?
In a recent post, “Ill Fares the Land,” I cited Biblical principles relating to gross inequality, and then cited evidences of gross inequality in our land. I never argued for exact equality. Such would be impossible. I implicitly argued for fairness. The question has been raised, “But what is fair?” That question reminds me of the question of the lawyer—“But who is my neighbor”—when Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The lawyer was seeking an out; he was seeking minimum righteousness rather than aiming for maximum generosity. I think the Facebook guy who raised the “What is fair?” question was seeking a minimum, or more likely trying to debunk the whole idea of fairness.
A judge acknowledged he could not define pornography, but allowed that he could recognize it when he sees it. I acknowledged that I cannot put a strict definition on fairness, but I’m pretty sure I recognize gross unfairness when I see it. And I see it when a CEO’s compensation is more than a thousand times greater than the earnings of his employees.
I sent a copy of that column to a longtime friend in a faraway place. He in turn forwarded it to several of his friends, one of whom wanted to engage in an ideological argument with me. He apparently was pretty sure that I must be a socialist, Marxist, or communist.
In the back and forth electronic conversations that followed, we were able to agree that there is no equality of result. The idea of equality of opportunity came up. I mentioned that I was born as a chronological peer to Teddy Kennedy, but that we were not peers as regards opportunity. That seemed to me a self-evident truth. After all, the late senator was born to wealth, education and erudition. I was not born in poverty but certainly not in wealth. We had enough to eat and a roof over our heads, but we didn’t have electricity until FDR’s socialist Rural Electrification Act brought it to our house shortly before World War II. We did not have indoor plumbing until 1947. My father had a third grade education, and my mother made it all the way through the seventh. Neither education nor erudition was in oversupply in the Kiker household nor in the Valley View community northeast of Tulia.
But I also contrasted myself with my chronological peers born on the wrong side of town in Tulia (or thousands of other small towns or large cities thoroughly ensconced in Jim Crow culture at the time). It is a self-evident truth to me that those chronological peers were not my peers in opportunity. I could have, but did not mention those born with mental or severe physical handicaps. Do they have equal opportunity with those not thusly handicapped?
These truths that were self-evident to me were not self-evident to my electronic correspondent. He insisted that everyone has equal opportunity. Trying to find agreement, I countered by going to the dictionary for the word equal. I found these definitions: “(1) of the same quantity, size, number, value, degree, intensity, quality, etc. (2) having the same rights, privileges, ability, rank, etc.” I countered that of course I had opportunities, but not equal opportunity with Teddy Kennedy. (I just pulled his name out of the hat as a well-known, imminently successful person of approximately age.) He insisted also that my unknown and unnamed chronological peers born on the wrong side of town had equal opportunities with me.
I can only conclude that my electronic correspondent has ideological blinders that compel him to insist that everyone has equal opportunity with everyone else. Therefore a helping hand is not necessary and may even be detrimental.
Right here in Tulia, Texas, we have neighbors—and doesn’t it say somewhere in Holy Writ, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”?—we have neighbors who would like to have a job, but the employment office has moved out of our town to Plainview. We have neighbors who do not have transportation to get to Plainview. Now I am told that the TNM&O bus no longer stops out at Grandys on the Interstate. We have neighbors who live in a catch 22. They can’t get to a job without a car. They can’t get a car without a job.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [sic] are created equal . . .”
But there are obvious inequalities of result, and yes, of opportunity, among us.
Let us work and pray toward a community, state and nation moving toward a more equitable society, even as we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.” On earth, as it is in heaven!