Rework all institutions

Jesse Hagopian’s Op-Ed asked how we fund a just society that works for all [“Why Seattle educators demand cut to police budget,” June 21, Opinion]. Our Black neighbors leave their homes afraid someone paid with taxpayer dollars might kill them with no provocation nor repercussions.

If that is not what you take from the ongoing civic protests — are you not listening, watching, reading widely? Or just not thinking about it because the system works for you? The color of our skin, not the content of our character, still determines how we are treated. Black Lives Matter is among a history of movements demanding we wake up to that.

Defunding the police must be understood as a call to demilitarize policing. It is a call for structural changes needed in systems like courts, education, government and, really, all institutions. It is a call to build upon the assets of our communities of color.

Now is the time to use resources to invest in our people, neighborhoods and businesses. Now is the time to fulfill the birthrights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness called for in the Declaration of Independence.

Sandy Hunt, Seattle, president, Highline Education Association

‘An ideal unrealized’

I recently turned 70. Fifty years ago, I was a University of Washington student, and participated in campus protests and the freeway march. I believed that if the government saw how strongly we felt about the many injustices in society, they would change.

My father said he was paying me to study, not protest. My answer to Dad was that protest meetings were the basic performance of Democracy. People voted on a course of action. If I didn’t go and vote against it, radical groups would shut down the campus. We are still trying to correct those injustices.

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America is an ideal unrealized. The system that allows some to prosper also allows others to be kept down. But “we the people” are the government. Elected leaders govern at our direction. We have the right to demand change, that our representatives act as we determine. We have the right to a free and independent press to tell us the facts of behavior of those representatives.

We arm vigilance with education, voting and information to keep our country governed as we desire. Hopefully, we will someday realize the American dream of equality for all and equal opportunities to pursue happiness.

Mary S. Perillo, Seattle

‘Founding myth’

Why is this Independence Day different from all other Independence Days?

For me as a Jewish American, this country offered my family freedom from persecution, opportunities for advancement and prosperity. Fleeing Europe for this country, Jews took advantage of the opportunities afforded us and are justifiably proud of all that we have accomplished.

But, as much as America represents a kind of alternate “Promised Land” for Jewish people, it is “Egypt” for Black Americans: a constricting place of oppression, police brutality, discrimination, poverty, unemployment and limited opportunity.

While many immigrant groups believe we were able to “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” (which we weren’t), we also need to recognize that Black Americans have been given leaden boots to wear yet are blamed for not being able to keep apace with other ethnic groups.

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They are not yet able to share in white America’s founding myth, that this is a land for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Only when this problem is rectified will July 4 truly be worthy of the name “Independence Day.” Only then will we all be free to partake in the celebration.

Rabbi Anson Laytner, Seattle

‘Respect all people’

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, which stated all men are created equal with unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The Black Lives Matter demonstrations over the last few weeks highlight the strong presence of racism in our country, which has prevented Black Americans from achieving these goals.

Racism in America either toward Black Americans or any other people who are marginalized can start to be resolved when people interact with other people by following this simple rule: Respect all people.

When respect reaches critical mass in your community, hatred and distrust wane, making it easier to resolve social-justice issues and end police brutality. Also, as respect becomes a moral focus in life, it can nurture an appreciation for the racial, religious, cultural and ethnic diversity in our country.

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Paul R. Perkins, Bellevue

‘Heavy baggage’

People may not remember much about the Declaration of Independence, but just about everyone remembers the feel-good guarantee it gives, that all men are created equal.

But is that a hollow guarantee when we are not all born equal?

It would be easy if everyone stood at the birth line with the same opportunities that guarantee a life of acceptance and freedom. But instead, we stand there naked, taking our first breath, already weighed down by inherited, heavy baggage.

Poverty, wealth, segregation, acceptance, homelessness, employment, war, peace, mental and physical illness, good health, education, genetics, and supportive family and friends — all of these will affect the degree of independence we individually enjoy throughout our life.

The sooner we can accept this reality about ourselves and others, the sooner we can lend our support to ensure that everyone enjoys the same freedoms and flourishes independently, regardless of their particular circumstances or background.

We are never free unless we all are.

Tish Gregory, Renton

Equality is overdue

In pursuit of equality, why not exercise our sovereign prerogative and in compliance with the provisions of Article V, amend the United States Constitution accordingly. For appropriate language, consider accepting and building upon that definition first forwarded by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. For example:

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“We the people hold this singular truth to be self-evident: that all humanity is created equal. Born sovereign of each other, unique of body and disparate of circumstance, we are each and all of us equal in that simple right to be. We further hold that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the inalienable rights of existence, are balanced by the commensurate responsibilities of coexistence. These are to indiscriminately hold each other secure in the privacy of person, property, spirit and experience; and to preserve, restore and replenish this nation and this good earth for those to follow. In this truth we are freely bound in citizenship. E Pluribus Unum.”

Equality is something we can do, we should do and is overdue. The responsibility rests solely with us.

Michael Reed Tripp, Seattle

What happened to ‘we’?

Too often, in the current times, people confuse liberty with license. License is the ability to do what you wish with no regard to others. Liberty is the right to do as you wish as long as you do not harm others. The sad state of affairs is that we have become an us or them society. The “we” of previous generations does not seem to exist any more.

We also have forgotten that with our “rights” comes responsibility. Responsibility circles back to treating others as we wish to be treated. If we do not act with responsibility, we will lose our rights.

Stephen Healy, Covington

‘Buoyed by hope’

I recall Fourth of July celebrations spanning more than eight decades (I’m in my 90s).

The 1960s were highlighted by participation in the March on Washington, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech and, five years later, delivering relief food to a Black church in downtown Washington, D.C., during the riots following the assassination of Dr. King. The decades since then have included a number of events in pursuit of peace for all nations and justice for peoples of all colors and persuasions, most recently culminating in marching and celebration at the Juneteenth “The Church Will Not Be Silent” event in Renton. There were hundreds of people representing all ages, including many children. The speakers, representing every color and many faiths, were inspiring.

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The magnitude and persistence of the rallies and demonstrations nationwide, continuing unabated with avowal they will not end until success is achieved, reminds me of the determination of our Founding Fathers.

As such, buoyed by hope, I’ll be flying the Stars and Stripes, dreaming of a new nation finally attaining its proclamation of “justice for all.”

David Olson, Issaquah

Much work to do

Since the principle that “all men are created equal” is the most quoted part of the Declaration of Independence, it is obvious that this is a value most of us share. But it is a mistake to believe that our country was actually founded on that principle. Black Americans and women were not originally included, nor were the original inhabitants.

We gain nothing by criticizing the thinking of people from an earlier time, but that does not mean that we should credit them for something they did not do. By deluding ourselves into believing that our country was founded on the principle of all people being equal, we deny our history and mislead ourselves about the present. It affects how we think, how we vote and how we view the policies set by our elected representatives. Love of our country does not mean denying its failings. It means honestly addressing those failings to always make her better.

Much work must be done, and current events highlight the urgency and logical starting points. But the problem started long before the latest events, and the work must continue long after the first changes are made.

John Lovchik, Ferndale

‘Face our mirrors’

Having experienced a summer fire that resulted in the loss of a home, this is a holiday over which I am never enthused; hoses at the ready, drugs for the dog. The real “rockets red glare” did not involve a bunch of drunks setting the woods on fire after a barbecue.

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This year, I truly mourn our loss of the fantasy of who we are. The reality of death threats and guards for health experts; people screaming at each other about their “freedom” and face masks; tear gas, rubber bullets and threats from the occupant in the White House; and Black men and women being killed on camera is hardly inspirational.

We look angry, mean and pathetic. And we are all of those things. Time to face our mirrors and do what is necessary to keep this country safe, smart and a beacon of light again. Freedom requires work and dedication.

Margot LeRoy, Gig Harbor

‘Hope for our country’

My dictionary defines “justice” as “impartiality; fairness.” It seems obvious, then, that justice doesn’t exist unless all people share in it. None of us are really free as long as there are still people in this country who are victims of hate crimes and racism.

Everyone — regardless of race, economic status, religion, gender or sexual orientation — should have the exact same rights as everyone else. All of us should have “the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” That includes the right of consenting adults to marry whom they choose; for people of every race to be able to walk down a street wearing a hoodie and eating Skittles without having to worry about getting killed for looking suspicious; and the right of everyone — including the impoverished — to have access to health care. If one group of people is experiencing injustice, then none of us have justice.

The Black Lives Matter movement has given me hope for our country and our world. To see people of every race coming together to support equality for all mankind has been powerful and uplifting. Maybe this time we will finally find justice for all.

Karen Molenaar Terrell, Bow

‘Fight a lot harder’

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, sacred and undeniable, 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.”

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America has failed in living up to these principles by not practicing them. The Jim Crow era showed us that these truths are not “self-evident.”

Perhaps our Founders should have used Thomas Jefferson’s original and deliberate choice of words, “sacred and undeniable.” Those words force an absolute reckoning of “equality” in principle and practice. They literally charge us with a sacred responsibility to do what we say: protect and promote life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to our fellow country men and women — all of them. They bind our laws to enact sacred and undeniable equality.

In his book “The Killer Angels,” Michael Shaara wrote of a speech made by a Union colonel, Joshua Chamberlain, appealing to his troops to fight in the Battle of Gettysburg: “In this war, in the end, we’re fighting for each other.”

We need to fight a lot harder if we are going to get back to the sacred and undeniable intent of Thomas Jefferson.

Edward Hunter Woodbery, Bellevue