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Wed, Jun

Believe in the Declaration of Independence to Save Ourselves

VOICES

GUEST COMMENTARY - 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.

Remember those words? What if they’re right, what if all people are created equal and have equal rights? Imagine the implications: A good option for easing the world’s suffering and to possibly save humanity from its myriad threats (climate change, nuclear war, etc.) is simply to accept that all people are created equal and in essence are a lot like everyone else, including you. 

Cynics have said that America’s founding fathers were only thinking of white men when they said “all people.” Perhaps, but no one really knows. 

However, it is obvious that all people share an essential human essence, and we must accept that fact if our species is to survive. I can make you believe if you’re willing to spend a moment to take the following little quiz. All questions are true/false (you don’t need to write your answers, just keep them in mind).

  1. If in eminent danger, I would try to save myself.
  2. If my family were threatened, I would try to save them.
  3. I would rather be well-fed than starving.
  4. I would rather have a safe and comfortable home than be homeless.
  5. I would rather have meaningful employment than drudge work with low pay.
  6. I would rather have a long, full, and good life than a short, miserable one.
  7. I would like my children to have a long, full, and good life.
  8. I would like to have friends and be loved.
  9. I would rather be pain-free than live in constant agony.
  10. I hope humanity survives any potential threat of near-term extinction.

The questions could go on and on, but 10 are enough to make my point. If your answer was “true” to all of them, then you have lots in common with everyone else. The Russian soldier values his life just as much as the Ukrainian values his. Israelis want to survive, Palestinians do too. 

But what about the jihadists, suicide bombers, and terrorists? They aren’t like us, you might think, they don’t value their lives. Are you sure? Is not there the possibility that jihadists value their lives just as much as you do yours, but are willing to sacrifice it for their concept of the greater good?

Every single person on the planet (all eight billion of us) is a unique individual. No one has quite the same dreams, desires, ambitions, or tastes as anyone else. We worship different gods (or none), we have different ethnic identities, we like different foods, we are attracted to different types of men/women or sometimes both. 

But that doesn’t make someone who is different less human. Jihadists, suicide bombers, and terrorists are all too frequently motivated by hatred or fear of people who are different. But instead of using differences to justify our own sense of superiority, we should welcome diversity as an opportunity to broaden our life experience. Every individual truly is unique, and her or his existence should be celebrated. I agree with the French — vive la diff?rence

Obviously, there are exceptions among the mentally-unbalanced, and there are some so desperate they no longer care about their own lives. But the vast majority of us value our lives. 

All humans – regardless of race, creed, color, or national loyalty – are essentially the same. We would like long, full, and good lives, and the only way to assure that for all humanity is to put aside our parochial differences and work together for the common good. 

We can do this, we have to do this; the alternative is too unthinkable.

(Paul Hellweg is a freelance writer and poet. Samples of his writing can be seen at www.PaulHellweg.com and www.VietnamWarPoetry.com. This story was first featured in PeaceVoice.info.)