The amount of human violence in the world right now seems insane. Combined with the uptick in natural disasters, the tragedies make it hard just to hear the news. 

How much of this violence is generated by the perception of inequality? It’s easier to see in other cultures. A young woman is killed in Iran by morality police for not covering her head, triggering more violence and death of women rising up in protest. A boatload of Palestinian refugees sinks off the coast of Jordan, drowning all 89 humans trying to escape desperate conditions. Others line up to get into the next boat because there is so little in Jordan, where inflation has hit 90%—so little food, money, medicine, not to mention jobs or roofs under which to lay their heads. A similar collapse of Venezuela’s economy has driven its citizens to walk to the U.S., only to be hijacked by ridiculous partisan politics. Russian citizens of differing ethnicities suddenly realize they are no more valued by Putin than the Ukrainian people next door and are escaping their own country to avoid becoming cannon fodder. 

It’s enough to make you cry, even cry out. But that’s the short list, and if we looked carefully around the globe, we’d see varying degrees of violence occurring everywhere against those considered unequal. That’s true even when our eyes finally come to rest here in the land of the free. 

When the title “equality for all” first occurred to me, it sounded ridiculous, redundant. The whole notion of human equality is inclusive of every human brave enough to be born. When I was a girl, I was instructed that the self-evident truth “all men are created equal” included me, a female child, that “men” was just a term we used to describe all humankind. As I grew and learned our history of exclusion from the category “men” and the fights waged to break down the barriers, first for Black (men), then for women of any color skin, even the fight for child labor laws—it became clear to me that sometimes we believe things that aren’t true. 

The truth is, equality is a religious notion, not a political one. Left to our own devices, we humans will create and reinforce hierarchical social structures as a form of solidarity and security. Those at the top benefit more from the sacrifices of those at the bottom, but all gain something from being members of a more-or-less cohesive whole, like identity and protection from invading neighboring tribes. 

According to Israeli scholar Joshua Berman, our notion of a democratic nation based on equality came not from the Greeks but from Deuteronomy, which is to propose that it was a God-inspired notion. In “Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought” (Oxford U Press, 2008), Berman details how the most enlightened documents of Greek and Roman political thought did not attempt or even want to do away with social stratification. “To be sure,” he wrote, “Plato and Aristotle called for justice; lower classes should not be wantonly prosecuted. But in the Greek context, justice required, as Aristotle opined, that equals be treated as equals and unequals as unequals.” 

Berman then painstakingly builds the case for divine intervention in human political structures through the Jewish people. He shows how Deuteronomy can be seen as God’s constitution, setting out the requirements for creating an egalitarian society backed by God’s powers, not human military might. In following these requirements, the Jews were to be a light to the rest of the world. Being human, the Jewish people have frequently missed the mark. But understanding the mark brings new meaning to including the widow, orphan and sojourner in community wealth, as well as to the Christian phrase “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free.” As for Jesus speaking to the woman at the well, we can see God’s equality applies even to females. 

That is the light that some of our founding fathers carried to this continent and built into our constitution. The light has been hidden many times, but it is a hope for human existence that won’t go away. May we keep seeking equality for all.

Trudy Wischemann is a workingclass Washington girl who got an education thanks be to God, the NDEA and the taxpayers of California who used to value higher education. You can write to her c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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