Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Allow me to preface this with a disclaimer that I have no idea where I'm going with this. I don't have a specific point; I just want to throw out some thoughts and see what sticks.
Today we covered the Declaration of Independence, day 1. The idea that I need to get across is that those words, "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness," are seven of the most important words ever. As a properly socialized citizen of the United States, I'm supposed to have that embedded inside of me. And to be honest? I believe it. It defines the cornerstone of what this nation is supposed to be about. And in choosing to live here, it's the cornerstone of what we want for ourselves. While it's only a partial reality for most and not real for some, that's what we still have. Life and Liberty are the easy part. We aren't shooting our protesters and cutting off their access to the outside world to tell the story (Myanmar - I'm looking at you, you sick bastards.) Yeah, we got started totally off the track with the whole slavery and Indian slaughters and Women's Suffrage (and everyone who wasn't a white man). But we were headed in the right direction. And yeah, we complained about the immigrants, about how they took everyone's jobs, how they wouldn't learn to speak English, and how they brought their strange customs, rituals and foods and refused to assimilate into American culture. But we got over that stupid argument a couple hundred years ago, right? It's the "Pursuit of Happiness" part that tends to throw people off. We only see the words we want, so we skip the "Pursuit of" part. I tried to emphasize that in class today, that no one is guaranteeing Happiness to anyone, just the chance to go get it. (And for the record, there is no Y in Happiness. Movie grammar and spelling doesn't count, kids.) But throughout my emphasis and discussion, I think that most of the little punks were taking advantage of their Liberty. There's a Simpson's scene (and several similar ones) where they show the thoughts inside Homer's head and the song "Turkey in the Straw" is about all that's going on. I doubt these kids know that song. I always remember it as the "Murphy's Oil" song from way back in the day, as the kids refer to history. (Quick internets search: "I've been using Murphy's Oil on this hardwood floor of mine. Now the dirt is finished, but the finish is fine.") And then it's the same song that plays in Steamboat Willie when Mickey cranks the cows tail, I believe. What song is going on in their heads these days? That could be a topic for another day. What's my point? There isn't one.

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