Admittedly, American governments have never fully respected those rights. And though in some ways things have gotten much better—slavery was abolished, Jim Crow repealed, the franchise extended to women—governments are now much more involved in micromanaging people’s lives through their much more extensive powers of taxation, spending, and regulation. American foreign policy has not always been very respectful of the inalienable, self-evident rights of human beings in other countries, either, to say the least.
But still, the ideals expressed in that document animate a lot of Americans, and a lot of other human beings as well, including this one. They are not just American ideals; they are human ideals. Their reaffirmation is a fitting response to the cowardly murder of nearly 3,000 people. Far better than twelve years of war and the rapid expansion of the domestic surveillance state.