On Declarations of Independence

Less than 75 years after the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence (1776), Elizabeth Cady Stanton presented the Declaration of Sentiments, at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s rights convention organized by women. Though she had revised the language of Thomas Jefferson’s declarative document to new, inclusive ends, the repercussions for the government not meeting those ends had been linguistically softened:

We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal…Whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Where Jefferson had called for “abolish[ment]” of any government not upholding these rights, Stanton politely “insist[ed] upon…a new government,” aka a resistance that manifested itself in the form of the Suffrage movement, which would battle the old tyranny for more than 75 years before securing voting rights for women via the 19th amendment.

But the paradigm shift was (and has been) laboriously slow, perhaps the most salient proof being the ongoing struggle – from 1972 to the present – to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

So perhaps the question is this: Is insistence enough in this era of women’s health clinic closures and weekly bans on reproductive rights, the perpetuation of unequal pay and the proliferation of rape culture?

Is insistence enough in the midst of “immigration roundups,” the detention of infants and children by both US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)?

Is insistence enough in the era of Black Lives Matter and the escalation of deadly force by police in Phoenix and cities across the country?

Is insistence enough in the era of Standing Rocks, the privileging of pipelines over indigenous rights, the denial of access to sacred sites in Flagstaff, AZ and across tribal lands throughout the U.S.?

Is insistence enough in the aftermath of SB1070 (AZ) and the sanctioning of racial profiling of LatinX members of our communities?

Is insistence enough in the wake of seven states passing “curriculum laws” regarding LGBTQ issues,” the AZ law banning teachers from portraying “homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style”?

Is insistence enough under the threat of proposed budget cuts to Medicaid and AHCCCS programs that will profoundly impact the disability community in AZ and across the country?

And though insistence may not seem like enough to thwart what Frederick Douglass called “a system marked with blood,” we don’t believe that tyrannical measures can effectively topple the tyrannical structures already in place, at least not without stripping more people of their agency in the process.

So yes, we do believe that we can insist upon a radical, creative, accessible-to-all form of resistance. And accordingly, we believe that persistent insistence can force a paradigmatic shift.

Welcome to The Revolution (Relaunch). 

-artwork by Gary Bowers