e are created equal! No one of us is better than any
of us! That's the headline proclaimed in 1776 and inscribed across
centuries in the truth of the ages. Those inspired words from the Declaration
of Independence mock bigotry and anti-Semitism. Then why do I still
hear race- and color-haters spewing their poisons? Why do I still flinch
at innuendoes of venom and inequality? Why do innocent children still
grow up to be despised? Why do haters' jokes still get big laughs when
passed in whispers from scum to scum? You know the ones I mean -- the "Some
of my best friends are Jewish..." crowd.
As for the others, those cross-burning
bigots to whom mental slavery is alive and well, I don't envy their
trials in the next world, where their thoughts and words and actions
will be judged by a jury of One. Why do so many among us continue
in words and deeds to ignore, insult and challenge the unforgettable
words of Thomas
Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration
of Independence's promise to every man, woman and child -- the
self-evident truth that all men are created equal?
That's what the Fourth of July is all
about. Not firecrackers. Not getting smashed on the patio sipping
toasts to our forefathers. Not picnics and parades or freeways empty
because America has the day off. Equality is what our Independence
Day is about. Not the flag-wavers who wave it one day a year, but
all who carry its message with them wherever they go, who believe
in it, who
live it enough to die for it -- as so many have.
OK, I'm a saloon singer, by self-definition.
Even my mirror would never accuse me of inventing wisdom. But I do
claim enough street smarts to know that hatred is a disease - a disease
of the body of freedom, eating its way from the inside out, infecting
all who come in contact with it, killing dreams and hopes millions
of innocents with words, as surely as if they were bullets.
Who in the name of God are there people
anyway, the ones who elevate themselves above others? America
is an immigrant country. Maybe not you or me, but those whose
love made our lives possible, or their parents or grandparents. America
was founded by these people, who were fed up with other countries.
Those weren't tourists on the Mayflower -- they were your families
and mine, following dreams that turned out to be possible dreams.
Leaving all they owned, they sailed to America to start over and
to forge a new nation of freedom and liberty -- a new nation where
they would no longer be second-class citizens but first-class Americans.
Even now, with all our problems, America
is still a dream of oppressed people the world over. Take a minute.
Consider what we are doing to each other as we rob friends and strangers
of dignity as well as equality. Give a few minutes of fairness to
the house we live in, and to all who share it with us from sea to
shining sea. For if we don't come to grips with this killer disease
of hatred, of bigotry and racism and anti-Semitism, pretty soon we
will destroy from within this blessed country.
And what better time than today to examine
the conscience of America? As we celebrate our own beginnings, let
us offer our thanksgiving to the God who arranged for each of us
to live here among His purple mountain majesties, His amber waves
of grain. Don't just lip-sync the words to the song. Think them,
live them. "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty." And
when the music fades, think of the guts of Rosa Parks, who by a single
act in a single moment changed America as much as anyone who ever
I'm no angel. I've had my moments. I've
done a few things in my life of which I'm not too proud, but I have
never unloved a human being because of race, creed, or color. And
if you think this is a case of he who doth protest too much, you're
wrong. I would live any other way; the Man Upstairs has been much
too good to me.
Happy Fourth of July. May today be a
day of love for all Americans. May this year's celebration be the
day that changes the world forever. May Independence Day, 1991, truly
be a glorious holiday as every American lives the self-evident truth
that all people are created equal. God shed His grace on thee --
on each of thee -- in His self-evident love for all of us.