Last Saturday on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Glenn Beck organized the Restoring Honor Rally. The intent is to restore the values that founded this great nation. (From glennbeck.com)
Each day I as a citizen of these United States benefit from the foundation laid by those who created the Constitution and constructed the framework for the freedoms that we enjoy. But when we talk about restoring the values of our founding fathers, which values are we talking about? What does that mean?
I have recently been listening to The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed. It recounts the history of the Hemings family, a slave family owned by Thomas Jefferson. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. They are two of our founding fathers. So when we talk about restoring the values of our founding fathers, are we talking about restoring slavery or an economy based on the use of slave labor? Are those the values referred to?
When the Constitution says that “all men are created equal,” this was a reference to free white men. This did not include women. Women could not legally vote until 1920. So when we talk about restoring the values of our founding fathers, are we talking about devaluing women?
I cannot imagine that Beck and others that participated in the Restoring Honor Rally would in any way support the reinstitution of slavery or that they are interested in preventing women from voting. But the question remains, which values of our founders are we talking about? The right to bear arms? Male voting? Human worth based on race? Freedom of speech? Freedom of assembly? The right to levy taxes? What does it mean to embody the same values of our founding fathers?
I don’t know about you, but I have no desire to be transplanted back into the culture, society, gender roles, or economy of 18th century America, the context of our beloved founding fathers. But I do look forward to the day when there is liberty and justice for all and this is a sweet land of liberty.