Happy Memorial Day! So I wrote a post recently about the future of America, but then I found my notes about the post and realized I had left a bunch out. I had left out the history of America, the past, the exceptional parts of America. So I thought for Memorial Day, we’d take a look at that.
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.
-Declaration of Independence
It’s really pretty well wrapped up in that. One way that we discussed American history in my history classes was that it was a continual reinterpretation of this phrase. Through the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, the rights movements of the 20th Century, and at this point right on up through the rights battles of today.
In there too – since it doesn’t say anything about specifically Americans being the ones with these rights – is the ideology that has led to so many people moving here. The history of the United States of America, and even the colony before it, is a history full of immigration.
Americans, what? Nothing better to do? Why don’t you kick yourself out? You’re an immigrant too?
-Icky Thump, The White Stripes
Much like the racial and gender and all rights movements, there has been a long history immigrant groups having a hard time at first, and over time becoming more integrated. The Melting Pot that is America.
Okay, so this is part of a series in our Science Fiction Today posts, which is a bit awkward I guess since there’s not a lot of science fiction set in the past… until you think of Steampunk.
I mean, okay, how about the most painful representation of Steampunk… Wild Wild West. Even just having Will Smith as the lead is an interesting move historically – and a lot of Steampunk follows that same lead. There is far more diversity in Steampunk, more women in science, things like that. We take our thoughts about our current world, our future – and we apply it to the past in these stories.
There’s a lot of backlash to all of these changes throughout history, and we’re still feeling some today. The sort of American Exceptionalism I talked about in the first post, the sort coming up in the political discourse today, is about trying not to change. But it has changed – America is no longer a predominantly Christian society (a great read about that would be The Next Christians), and it’s increasingly diverse. By resisting the inevitable changes in our society, we’re maybe not living up to the promise of the Declaration of Independence.
If it’s Memorial Day, and we are honoring those who have fought for freedom, then let’s pause and think on what freedom means. For all people, born wherever, from whatever background, to whatever future – freedom. All created equal, and deserving of a chance.