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.

Those immortal words from the Declaration of Independence are beautiful, aren’t they? Our forefathers wanted to create a nation where that was true. Perhaps they even believed those words. But they lied. We are not equal. We never have been, and we never will be.

After reading all of the comments on yesterday’s blog, Preoccupied, I think that this illusion of equality is a big part of the problem. People really believe that we are equal, and as equals, we should all have the same opportunities and enjoy the same successes. But it just doesn’t work that way in real life.

I’m short fat, bald, and you might call me plain on a good day, if you were feeling very generous. Would I have liked walking into a place with a super model on each arm, back in my younger days? What young man wouldn’t? But I realized that was never going to happen, and it’s just as well. I prefer real women, the kind you can hold an intelligent conversation with, and who accept themselves, laugh lines and all, just as they are. Because that’s the way I accept myself.

I may be built like a football, but I was never any good at sports. When it comes to making or fixing things, anybody who knows me will tell you that I can cause more damage with a hammer and a screwdriver than a hundred monkeys could if they were all driving trucks the wrong way down a Los Angeles freeway at rush hour. And to be honest, I’m too lazy to want to play sports, or to build or repair anything.

But I was born with certain talents and abilities. From the time I was a kid, I had a vivid imagination, and was always a natural storyteller. I’ve never been afraid of taking a risk, if I felt the payoff was worthwhile. And I have always been able to make friends, anywhere I have ever been. That combination has allowed me to make my living doing what I love best, as a writer, for much of my adult life.

I know other people who can read the same page in a book a dozen times, and still not grasp what it says. But they may know how to tear a gasoline motor down and put it back together again so that it purrs like a kitten, or to build furniture that would look perfectly at home in the finest homes in Savannah or Boston.

When I was in high school, I had a conversation with the father of a friend of mine, who worked on a production line at the Jeep factory in Toledo. I remember saying that I just didn’t understand how anybody could be content with a job like that, when there was a whole wide world out there, just waiting to be explored.

Instead of being offended by my rudeness, he told me that he loved his job, he loved putting in his forty hours and getting his paycheck at the end of the week, and forgetting all about it until next Monday morning. He had helped his parents pick up coal along the railroad tracks to heat the house during the Great Depression, and that’s all he wanted out of life, a steady job and a warm house to come home to at the end of the day. “The world needs worker bees too,” he told me. “And I’m right where I need to be in life.”

No, we are not all created equal. Each of us is a unique individual, with strengths and weaknesses, with our own hopes and dreams, as lofty or as plebian as they may be. 

I think a lot of Americans have forgotten that, or maybe they never got the message in the first place. We can’t all be super models or sports stars. But what each of us can do is to use whatever gifts we are born with to follow our own dreams, and work hard to make those dreams come true.    

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28 Comments on They Lied, We Are Not Equal

  1. Greg White says:

    so now i come to find out that I get to fix all the stuff you break because you’re just ‘too lazy’ to fix it yourself?

    Don’t I feel special!

  2. Nick Russell says:

    Or, you could look at it as my way of helping you live up to your own potential, Greg.

  3. Chris says:

    And if you and Greg didn’t have each other to pick on you’d both be miserable.
    Now for the serious stuff, nothing bad about it, Nick. The problem is a lot of the younger (and often older) people don’t know of or care about their own potential. They see people who have more than them and they think they deserve the same without working for it. Then you have the ones that are plain lazy and just want to live off someone else. We can’t change stupid. The cream always rises to the top! (you didn’t realize you are sweet cream, did you?) As always, enjoyed the read.

  4. Bob says:

    Is it still too much of a stretch to say that the notion of being “created equal” is a reasonable assumption?
    I do tend to think there’s an arguable difference between being “equal” and being “created equal”.

    Possibly by putting in the “created” part, the founding fathers could then argue that, whatever happens after that, “yer on yer own”?

    Just wondering.

  5. Francis Callahan says:

    Right On Nick we need more people to realize the facts of life sorry the weather followed you but at least it isn’t snow loike here the other day

  6. Connie Bradih says:

    I don’t always agree with you Nick but on this one I do. As it says, “All men are created equal…” It also goes on to say, “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

    No where does it say that everything (stuff and money)should be divided equally among the people. It says men (and we now interpret that to mean males and females) have rights, among them PURSUIT. I think that’s an important word here.

    We should all be equal in our opportunity to seek our fortunes. You may make millions of dollars, you may make little. What our government is NOT supposed to do is stop you from reaching for your dream. And if your dream is millions of dollars and you reach it, it is NOT for the government to take that money away and dole it out among the people equally.

    I have long thought we fail to teach the Constitution in our schools. How many people have actually read the Constitution? Most of them depend on the “news” to interpret for them what is or is not in the Constitution. That in itself is an oxymoron.

    Perhaps if more people actually read the Constitution or took a class in reading and interpreting what it says for modern times, our country would be in better shape. An uninformed populace leads to socialism, communism and dictatorship. If the people become lax in their vigilance, democracy will be overthrown. And I believe that our form of democracy (representative democracy) is the best type of government for all people.

  7. Jon Ensminger says:

    It’s it wonderful that we are not the same, it takes all kinds to make up the world.
    If we were all out of the same mold there wouldn’t be enough golf courses in the world. (Ha,ha)

  8. Camille says:

    I agree with Connie. All human beings are inherently equal when born and deserve the right to live, the right to be free, and the right to pursue his/her definition of happiness. But “equal” in worth as a human being is not the same as “equal” in abilities and talents.

  9. Breck says:

    Several of the comments yesterday centered around the very notion that Nick illustrates regarding the factory worker. The “worker bees” are the middle class of America, the backbone of America, and those working for corporations are learning that the queen bee wants the worker bees from another hive in the next county to bring her the honey because she can get her even more honey, and is not at all concerned with the well-being of the bees from her hive who have made her successful over the years. They have been working steadily and diligently, not asking to be the king (or queen), but looking only for that warm hive and a little food in return for delivering solid performance all week long. Yet, the queen has now acquired a rather large pile of honey that she’s keeping for herself while she kills off her own worker bees and replaces their efforts with the foreign bees. All with the blessing and support and incentives of her bee-keeper.

    Corporations have 2 Trillion dollars of honey set aside today. Unemployment is over 9 percent. But many / most CEO’s are paid on earnings per share, so they can get more honey personally by not expanding their business, but rather just buying back the company stock . Sweet deal…no work, low risk, more honey. Unless you are worker bee finding yourself locked out of the hive in the winter.

    Being a responsible corporation doesn’t mean you pay everyone the same. But the gap between CEO and worker has grown to the point that the CEO’s no longer care about their workforces. We talk about the people who want / expect something for nothing.. I believe the expectations of the 1% also fall in the same category in a perverted way.

    Very few of the 99% are saying “equal” for all – yet, ethical management would be a great change. The supporters are not all lazy, irresponsible citizens. We watched our companies lay off loyal, talented people while declaring record profits each quarter, knowing those jobs would never be filled again in the US. The remaining worker bees live in a stress filled world, knowing that good work does not mean anything to the queen.

  10. Bill S. says:

    Nick
    Your comments center on person to person (or personal) equality, but the focus of the occupation movement is equity – specifically economic equity. In this context equality and equity differ. When the system is skewed to give obvious advantage to the wealthy (i.e. the Warren Buffett example where he pays less taxes than his secretary) and our politicians who make the laws are bought and paid for by big corporations, then economic inequity results.
    Bill

  11. Dennis M says:

    I think you may have missed the point Nick. Yes, we all have different talents, abilities, and, yes, opportunities.

    The point many of us are trying to make today is that we have produced a class of “robber barons” that take unfair advantage of their success and political power to the detriment of society as a whole. Is the CEO of a company really worth 200+ times the pay of the average worker? Or is he taking advantage of his buds on the corporate board and taking more than he deserves.

    Did the managers of a company that took bailouts from taxpayers because they were “to big to fail” really earn multi-million dollar bonuses when the companies had yet to show a profit?

    The sorry fact is that the game is rigged, thanks to our “representatives” in government who only listen to the fat cats and stick it to the middle class. The attitude in many parts of our society seems to be “I got mine!”

    There are many people out there who kept their part of the bargain with corporate America only to find at the end of 20 or 30+ years that the promised pensions and health care coverage suddenly evaporated, while the executives walked away from the bankrupt companies with obscene severance packages.

    They need to be reminded that “pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.”

  12. dave says:

    Connie is right on,our forefathers mentioned our Creator often, and we are 100% equal in His eyes. I feel sure that is what they meant.

  13. Rob Fox says:

    How fortunate was it that, at the birth of this nation, you were endowed with people of such wisdom and intellect. When declaring the birth of an independent nation they were entirely cognisant of the for of society from which they wished to escape. It was a society where a man could claim to rule by virtue of birth. It was a society where unelected political power over the people was inherited and granted for life (the House of Lords). The power of the aristocracy came through their great wealth, the ownership of the land and the distorted concept of birthright.

    As England, and the rest of Europe, was a mainly agricultural society, an individuals future was set almost from the time of birth. A farm labourers son would become a farm labourer, the millers son would become a miller, sons learned from their fathers and generally followed into that working life. There was no social mobility. Education was expensive only available to those with the means. The potential of each individual was predicated at birth.

    The aristocratic minority, with the king at it’s head and with the collusion of established church, used their wealth and status to maintain generational control of the land and the populace. Of course, if you were a girl ……. forget it!

    It had not always been that way of course. Thankfully, for the development of society, some of those fortunate enough to gain access to education came to recognise the inequity of the status quo. People began to revisit the idea of a man born free to reach whatever his potential might be unencumbered by the accident of his birth. And it is with that background that the founding fathers framed their ideas for a new world society in which man made barriers to opportunity would be banished.

    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.

    So, 235+ years later we find some troublesome scamp offering questioning the meaning or intent of the words. (there actually seems to be a whole industry devoted to the interpretation of the words ….. but that’s another post)

    “We hold these truths to be self evident”: If only that were the case.

    “that all men are created equal”: The concept that individuals are born with differences is natural. That they be born with divine rights by virtue of being the son of the King of England, is not. The important word here is “created”. To society at large, each child should be seen as an equal citizen and of equal worth, regardless of who their parents are. Sure, from the moment of conception, each child is provided with genetic characteristics that will shape their future potential value to society. Perhaps the author might have added the words “in the eyes of the Creator”.

    “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”: You can’t deny them to anyone, least of all because they were born to somebody less wealthy.

    So there is just a small section of the thought and work undertaken by the founding fathers in an effort to create a better and more equitable society. Offering freedom and opportunity to all regardless of parentage. It was a profound and courageous start. Some might say idealistic and naive. From the very moment of declaration, self interest began to work to create nuances in the system which gradually slid the balance to the side of money and power. And now, after 235+ years you find yourselves with a dysfunctional government ruled by a new aristocracy. A society ruled by big business. A society ruled by a cabal of Ivy League educated CEO’s who keep will only recruit their own. The doors of opportunity are rapidly shutting to the citizen not born to the right parents. The people will eventually rise up once again.

  14. Dave B. says:

    Did you all see the lobbyist on 60 minutes last night? He said the lobbyist “own” our government and gave many examples of how they got favors done for the rich and big corporations. Never did he say it was right or just. He admitted it was wrong but added it is our system today. I can associate with the 99% because of this.

  15. Linda Sand says:

    I believe we in this country are all born with the equal right to pursue a life that will make us happy. That is what our constitution promises. If we choose to pursue a way of life that does not make us happy, we have no right to demand that others make up for our choices. That’s why I’ve decided it is past time for me to work on my own health; who else should be responsible for the poor decisions I’ve made?

  16. Bad Nick will lose his reputation if Chris keeps referring to him as “sweet”…of course he is, just ask Miss Terry!

  17. Arnold W. says:

    Lots of high paying jobs in the North Dakota oil boom right now, and even truck drivers & laborers making good money. So don’t tell me there are no jobs to be found

  18. Dale says:

    Arnold W: Yes there are lots of jobs in North Dakota right now. But that still doesn’t represent enough jobs to drastically lower the unemployment rate.

  19. buck says:

    I agree with Dennis M, thanks to our so called elected leaders the American dream, is becomming a nite mare. But we can also blame the typical citizen in this country who concerns himself
    more, with knowing about every professional sports figure in the
    country, yet nothing about the official who is picking his pocket, that he votes into office……… Or doesn’t even take the time to vote………………………

  20. Connie Bradih says:

    I have a question for all those who think corporations pay their execs too much or move factories overseas and use foreign workers? How are you going to control or legislate (federal government in control) what a private business does?

    A number of you rail against private corporations, lobbyists, etc? But what are your suggestions for solutions? Let the federal government control private business? Let the workers control the business?

    I don’t see how a private company can be told how to distribute the profits from the company among it’s workers, shareholders, etc. I don’t see how we can control a private company and how it pays it’s higher ups. Yes, we have minimum wage but do you want a maximum wage? If we (workers or government) try to tell a business owner how to run the financials in his/her business, I only see more businesses leaving the USA.

    So you have explained the problem according to your point of view, so what is the solution?

  21. Allan says:

    I agree with Nick and Connie on both of her posts.
    I do believe that higher taxes and more government regulations will only stifle growth and job creation.

  22. Paul Stough says:

    The wages and benefits of millions of Americans has been driven down to significantly decrease the middle class.

    The next step is to drive down wages and benefits to all levels of government employees, since they now average about 25% more in wages than private sector workers which will further decrease the size of the middle class.

    Then the next step is to end virtually all social welfare programs because of our current debt and deficit problems which will drive more people from the middle class.

    Then it is welcome to the Third World!

    Anyone who thinks that the quote from the Declaration of Independence about all men being created equal means that all men have equal abilities and talents doesnt know much about the Declaration of Independence. The best interpretation of the phrase means that all men are created equal before the law, and no one because of their position in life is better or worse than another. The sad part is that this is no longer true, as I am sure we have all cases where justice has been bought and paid for.

    Paul

  23. Rob Fox says:

    Ah ….. solutions. There in lays the problem and why I am always impressed with the level of intellect on show at the outset of your nation. Those guys really showed that they were thinking of the people and the commonwealth. That last word means exactly what it says “the common wealth of all the people”. Those guys were concerned about all of the people and not just the few.

    Do we have an equal level of intellect around to help us out of the problems we face today? Almost certainly. Unfortunately the anti intellectual, anti science, anti education, anti reason, anti fact politics combined with a dumbed down media is ignoring it. We are in an era of voodoo economics and almost medieval politics. I fear that we have not yet reached the darkest time of the night.

    The twentieth century saw the global power play between the competing ‘isms. Communism was bound to fail because, as Nick suggested, we are all different. If humans have their liberty artificially constrained, they revolt. What happened in Russia after the fall was a free for all rush to capitalism. The corruption that followed created an oligarchy of the very highest order. The very same self interest, greed and political corruption wrecks ordinary civil life in either case.

    One of the major problems that the people of the USA suffer, and I say this with the greatest respect and friendship, you have been indoctrinated, by nearly 100 years of government propaganda, to close your eyes to socialism and what that really means. The term, along with “socialistic” are bandied about like cuss words in a bar fight and are universally equated with communism. If you take the time to understand the realities you would begin to understand the positive differences. If you really go back to what the founding fathers were trying to create, it’s ……. well …… socialist. (cue howls of derision).

    I laugh every time I’m stuck in the line behind a yellow school bus. It’s the quintessential picture of American daily life ……. and a fine example of practical socialism.

    Note that in both USSR and China, the communist idea was ruthlessly exploited (distorted) by despots for their own ends.

    Karl Marx warned of the potential issues just as Adam Smith warned of the issues of unrestrained capitalism. The problem is the same in either case. Greed and self interest.

    To find a solution (or solutions) we will probably have to hurt a lot more so that we may come to the table with an open mind. We have to take note of subtleties. Social democracy is not the same as communism. The capitalism embodied in the local businesses around your town/state are not the same as the global capitalism of an entity like (not picking on any one) GE. The local company is harmed just as much, by the unrestrained actions of the big guy, as the ordinary man and woman in the street.

    You are a very proud an patriotic people. I see that at every local little league match I see in our town. On every street I drive down. You are, or want to be, united and as one. That is the attitude that has seen this nation to great things. But you are now seeing elements of society that are pulling away. They see the American population, not as an essential partner in national growth but simply as profit. Purchasers of products made with cheap labour overseas. Their short term greed will not allow them to see that, unless the capitalist works to grow his economy, his market will evaporate. Henry Ford understood this by the bucket load.

    Before “money” was thought of we got along with a barter system. That wasn’t very efficient and so the concept of “money” developed as an exchange for the value embodied in a man’s toil. This is a level of abstraction from the physical exchange of goods to the acceptance of a proxy. This worked quite well but the clever people in the financial world were still dealing with “things”: loans and payments on farm crops, trading on company shares etc. The goal of the financial sector has been to create the most efficient (and profitable) markets possible. In order to do this they have created ways to distance themselves from the “real” economy. Ever greater levels of abstraction. The classic examples being the Chicago Board of Trade, New York stock exchange. They were at least understood and regulated. Now we have the far less understood markets of exotic financial instruments where money makes money. Perhaps it’s better to describe it as poker where he who can claim to have a bigger wad, and keep a straight face, wins it all.

    So you see that the production of goods and services (the traditional economy) has only one function in this new financial world. It is there to feed monies (or the promise of it) into the financial poker game. They have been feeding on your 401K’s and when that wasn’t enough, and to gain greater access to your (retail) money, they had the Glass Steagall act repealed. It’s a high stakes game where the general public are the losers and the Wall Street bankers are the winners.

    Think Enron, Lehman Bros, AIG, Madoff and they are just the ones that have hit the news. There are umpteen other entities with fancy names that act like unregulated banks (shadow banking). A major part of the global financial crisis is about a lack of trust. They are all at this giant poker table and all claim to have piles of cash and nobody knows who’s lying. The real fear is that they all are! The financial sector is totally out of control.

    So back to solutions.

    You need “good, honest” government more now that at any time since Lincoln. You need strong leadership to stand firmly with the people against the vested interests of the few. That means standing up against the giant corporations, as well as against corrupt state government. Anything less will mean anarchy.

    The Glass Seagall Act should be reinstated and much tougher regulation of the wholesale banking market (that’s not the traditional town bank).

    Remove big money from politics. (limited amount, registered donations from individuals only)

    Corporations are not people. They should be subject to the will of the people in accordance with the law!

    Tell your bank that you will leave unless they treat you fairly (charging you to extract your own money via debit card)

    Tell you bank, insurance company or phone provider that you will switch unless the call centres are located in the USA.

    Support your local economies as much as possible.

    Support your troops, bring them home. Give them love as they will need it when they get back to this economy.

    Get engaged in politics again. It’s your civic duty. But do it with an open mind and question the dogma.

    Don’t blame the unfortunate, the under-represented, the minorities. Rise above the peripheral issues.

    Don’t give up. Perhaps read the words of the founding fathers once again and re-kindle the spirit of 1776.

    Note: On balance, I come down on the side of capitalism (small c). If I’m ever asked, I say that I’m a socialist who is just to the right of Genghis Kahn. Thanks if you got this far. It’s a pleasure to be a guest in your country.

  24. Paul Stough says:

    @Connie re:A number of you rail against private corporations, lobbyists, etc? But what are your suggestions for solutions?

    1. To over turn Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad.(http://money.howstuffworks.com…..erson1.htm)

    I believe that this would also negate the Citizens United case.

    2. Return to the original intent of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution regarding “birthright citizenship”.

    3. Enforce current laws regarding illegal aliens.

    Paul

  25. Connie Bradih says:

    Paul,
    Please elaborate on how overturning the two cases in your #1 would influence how much corporations pay their employees and executives or how this applies to companies moving overseas and using foreign labor.

    Ditto for number two.

    Thank you, Connie B.

  26. Connie Bradih says:

    correction Ditto for two and three.

  27. Paul Stough says:

    Connie- Overturning the first two cases would eliminate corporate spending on elections, as they would no longer be considered “persons” under the Constitution, and therefore would not be able “to petition their government for redress of grievances”(lobby). This would vastly reduce the political power of these organizations, therefore, making it more difficult to get laws favorable to them passed that allows them to move over seas with little or no penalty and other goodies.

    The second and third items will greatly reduce the number illegal aliens in the country, and also, cut down on the number of new citizens(anchor babies).

    Reducing the political power of corporations and other businesses, and reducing the huge over supply of low skilled and unskilled labor in the country, will bring back into balance the supply and demand for labor so businesses and corporations will once again have to pay decent wages and offer decent benefits to their workers.

    This change will benefit the economy in at least two ways, as wages go up, workers will be liable for more Federal Income taxes, and there will be less demand on social welfare programs. A win win for us all.

    Hope this answers your questions.

    Paul

  28. Connie Bradih says:

    Paul, Appreciate your elaboration. This explains to me what your point of view is. Thanks, Connie B.

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