Tuesday, November 19, 2013

All (Hu)m(a)n(s) Are Created Equal?

I find it strangely fitting that this 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's delivery of the Gettysburg Address is also World Toilet Day.  (Stay with me here.)  Lincoln spoke eloquently of a nation founded upon the premise that all men are created equal.  I love, love, love that he did this, because Lincoln's words stack a new layer upon our nation's founding documents, multiplying the effect of what I often tell my students when they reach that point of the term when they're totally depressed by all the bad things that have happened in American history: the most exciting thing about these United States is that men enlightened by the standards of their times issued universal declarations in language far, far more sweeping in its application than anything they could have envisioned in their time and place... and Americans have been able to use those promises to drag society (kicking and screaming, sometimes) toward a world of greater opportunity for all.  That--THAT--is awesome.  As in "awe-some," not as in surfer talk.

Lincoln was a great man; he was also a man of his times.  As many will point out today, his thinking on slavery and his conception of what the Civil War was about evolved over the years of his life and of the conflict.  That doesn't taint the deeper, broader truth of his words.  Perhaps he was prophetic, in the sense of speaking truths even he did not fully comprehend.  

We in the United States still fail to put into practice this truth that all (humans) are created equal.  Others will spend the day pointing out a litany of ills that continue to plague society, and they're right--but the promise endures, and that gives me hope.

On World Toilet Day, however, I'd suggest we take this promise one step farther.  Lincoln states that the United States was founded upon the premise that all people are created equal.  That statement is necessarily universal.  He didn't say all men in the United States are created equal.  Rather, all men--everywhere--are created equal.  There are 2.5 billion people in this world who do not have access to basic sanitation.  That's billion with a "b."  Lincoln's words apply to these folks, too.  Let's take this premise global.  We have an awesome inheritance--if we use it.

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