The sudden acute relevance of our founding documents

Judging strictly from the image of the Declaration of Independence that I placed at the top of this article, you might anticipate that I am all set to publish another article excoriating Donald Trump’s illegitimate election and the Republican election fraud that enabled it. I hope to present you with a more enjoyable take on our founding documents.

A long time ago there was a pop group known as the Fifth Dimension. They were most famous for their classic Up, Up and Away (in My Beautiful Balloon), and their hit that I like most is called You Don’t Have to be a Star (To be in My Show). But the circumstances in the late Sixties and early Seventies did not escape their attention, and in 1969 they created a recording of part of the Declaration of Independence. The song included this excerpt from the text, which I altered slightly to make some points that have become clear with time:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that everyone is created equal;
“that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights;
“that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness;
“that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed;
“that whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

Watch the performance here:

I would not have guessed, in advance, that a successful pop group with some real status in the contemporary music industry–that included the Motown/soul music community–would have chosen to stick their necks out by getting political. And if a singer does decide to get political, there are plenty of social-comment songs around, from Eve of Destruction on the forceful end of the spectrum to Abraham, Martin and John in the gentle folk style. I have sung plenty of them in my career as a singer.

Protest music goes back as far as human civilization, and America was jolted awake by Billie Holliday’s song, Strange Fruit, which I think brought social justice into the forefront of postwar America. You won’t hear it covered often today, but Diana Ross did include it in the film Lady Sings the Blues (for which she was cheated out of the Oscar she deserved).

So the Fifth Dimensuion was right on target with their wonderful and creative performance of the document that resonates to all Americans, and that should be every bit as exciting and inspiring to Black America today as it was to the Founding Fathers who wrote and signed it. Historical perspective regarding the slighting of black slaves is no longer relevant. As the poet James Russell Lowell wrote, “Time makes ancient good uncouth …” Right and wrong are evolving concepts, that theoretically get more profound with the passing of generations.

So this is all very well, isn’t it? But in a very short period of time the American people may be faced with the decision to choose between accepting the rape of our country by traitors to whom the word America means nothing, or protest. Beginning with the women marching on Washington in just days, it is incumbent on everyone to find a way to deal with what is about to descend upon us, as I wrote previously.

What are you prepared to do? Or do you intend to do nothing and see what happens? Don’t wait too long, because your need for Medicare and Social Security is creeping right up on, you, isn’t it?

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