American vs. unAmerican values, as compared to the Declaration of Independence

Values that stand in opposition to those described in the Declaration of Independence are unAmerican values.

Engraving of the Declaration of Independence (image credit: Monticello.org)

Engraving of the Declaration of Independence (image credit: Monticello.org)

Without the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America, there is no United States of America. That makes the values laid out in those documents American values, by definition. And any values that run contrary to the values in those documents, again by definition, unAmerican.

The Declaration of Independence

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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,…

Equality. The concept of natural human rights. The rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (among others). The concept that the people have a say in their government. These are the American values defined by the Declaration of Independence.

Since July 4, 1776, we have evolved our understanding of equality to no longer mean just among men, but among all human beings. Valuing equality is an American value. On the other hand, opposing equality is unAmerican. Put more bluntly, racism is unAmerican. White nationalism is unAmerican. Sexism is unAmerican. Anti-Semitism is unAmerican. Islamophobia is unAmerican. Homophobia is unAmerican. Transphobia is unAmerican. But the value of treating everyone equally, regardless of their gender or gender identity, skin color, religion, or whom they love – that is an American value.

The idea of inalienable human rights, including but not limited to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, is an American value. Rejecting human rights, however, is unAmerican. In 1948, in the shadow of World War II, the United States of America adopted the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since then, the rights contained in that declaration have become American values, even if they were not originally listed in the Declaration of Independence. And the rejection of those rights has become unAmerican. Some of those rights are equality (Article 2), freedom from torture (Article 5), equality before the law (Article 7), freedom of movement and the right to return to your own country (Article 13), asylum from persecution (Article 14), marriage and having a family (Article 16), equal pay for equal work and the formation of trade unions (Article 23), and a sufficient standard of living to provide food, clothing, housing, medical care, among others (Article 25). Put bluntly, marriage equality is an American value – denying marriage equality is unAmerican. Rejecting torture is an American value – justifying or committing torture is unAmerican. Accepting refugees from troubled places in the world is an American value – rejecting them entirely is unAmerican. Social services like food stamps, Social Security, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act are American values – rejecting them, especially without a viable plan to provide those services to every American in need in an alternative way, is unAmerican.

The Declaration of Independence says that governments are instruments of people, not God, and that they have authority only because the governed people give the government that authority. Valuing democracy and keeping religion out of government is an American value, while values that seek to limit democracy and inject religion into government are unAmerican. Put more bluntly, making it easier for citizens to vote is an American value. Restricting polling hours and locations is unAmerican. Opposing onerous voter ID laws is an American value, while the objectively racist ID laws themselves are unAmerican. Wanting to keep religion out of the government is an American value. Wanting to make the United States a Christian nation is unAmerican.

Values that are contrary to those described in the Declaration of Independence are unAmerican values. Values that are in line with the Declaration of Independence are American values. This is true regardless of the political persuasion of those who hold the views.

The general values laid out in the Declaration of Independence lead ultimately to the specific values detailed in the Constitution. The Constitution is a large enough document that I’ll cover it separately.

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