Declaration of Independence

The StreetWrites sequel to Thomas Jefferson's classic

United by need and blessed by mercy, humans serve one another and are thus assured of peaceful existence. But there are yet some who would seek to dominate and chastise those who appear to be weak. Armed with our traditions of law, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the people of our Fifty States still have much work to do to produce the stable, living Republic of which we have dreamed since the first Fourth of July.

Our founding members declared that all human beings had certain basic rights, including the right to resist and to change any government that violated those basic conditions of human dignity. Today we find our own government repeating the very violations of which King George was accused in 1776:

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance. The majority of funds directed to Welfare and other homeless services end up being eaten by administrations.

... protecting [his Officers], by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States ... Police who kill are given mock trials, if any. Convictions for abuse are rare.

... For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury ... Park Exclusion Ordinance. (`Nuff said.)

The Bill of Rights, Article IV, declares: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated ... The only people who are given respect for their persons, papers, and effects, are those who have houses. Those who sleep outside or huddled in doorways, with no alternative, have no right of privacy - not in the pitiful few feet of their "home," their few possessions, or their persons. A policeman can tromp through your campsite or come poking through your tent whenever he pleases. When almost any citizen is arrested, all their possessions must be returned to them on their release, and are supposed to be all present and in good condition. But the possessions of those arrested for sleeping on public land are trashed, bulldozed, or "lost in the system."

The King of England was accused of abdicating government on this continent "by declaring us out of his Protection." Alan Greenspan has stated that to have a well-working economy, seven percent of the population should be unemployed. Developers seek to keep housing prices up by backing zoning restrictions that will prevent more affordable housing from multiplying to the point at which every person would actually have a choice.

The King of England was accused of dividing the country to keep it conquered, as he forced Americans to take up arms against each other. Many forces keep our population divided today. American politicians rant about "Welfare Moms" and the crimes of the poor against the taxpayers - while American businessmen profit from their employees' fear of becoming unemployed and homeless. As a result, employees don't organize for a livable wage and necessary medical benefits.

We do not advocate a violent revolution. But we have learned from Martin Luther King, Jr., and from Mohandas Gandhi that every human has the moral power and duty to stand before their community and say, "You are doing wrong. You have no right to do this thing."

We have strayed from our founding dream. Whether or not we choose the Fourth of July at the turn of the Millennium as the time to bring ourselves back, this dream is not going to die. The human spirit is the foundation of all social order, and respect for the rights of the individual is the moral basis of our ability to live with each other "in peaceful existence." Respect for the rights of all individuals.

StreetWrites is a workshop of homeless and low-income writers,
sponsored by Real Change, the Puget Sound's street-newspaper.
This Declaration of Independence was a workshop exercise,
published in Real Change July 1, 1999.

Homeless Columns ed. by Anitra L. Freeman