Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Birthday... RIP

Independence Day was supposed to be a happy day. A celebration of the founding of our nation: a nation of free people, a constitutional democracy. Representation, reason and the rule of law. It was a great dream. Too bad we are forced to watch it slowly dying before our eyes.

How do you celebrate a nation's birthday as it lies bleeding in the dirt? Picnics and fireworks... or roses? Odes to it's former greatness, or dirges to it's demise? Once, this nation was a beacon to the world:

"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

Freedom of religion, freedom to live in harmony and pursue happiness without fear of repression. Freedom of speech, freedom to congregate... and a government of elected officials that served the people.

That was the plan, anyway. Last one out the golden door, please turn off the lamp.

It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad. - James Madison

The Canary in the Coal Mine

Today I read a brief post about a Holocaust survivor who is moving back to Germany.

His reason? "I have seen this all before."

He isn't the only one. I suppose many of us see the signs, all around us and grapple with our own internal screams of warning.

I spent much of my childhood and well into adulthood denying any of my German ancestry, simply because I could not come to grips with German complicity in the Holocaust. I did not want to be 'German.' In my mind, Germans were monsters... Nazis. Even the language repelled me, because I could hear within it, the echoes of Hitler's maniacal ranting.

Imagine... how ironic. Because now I cringe to be 'American.' And my anger at those who have perverted everything this nation stood for is hard to express. The word 'outrage' falls short. Betrayal, perhaps.

It is painful to envision the many people our government is capturing, torturing and holding without due process, or any proof of guilt; spirited away to secret camps... and this only a few generations removed from WWII, when own proud grandparents liberated Europe from fascist terror. We have become the enemy our grandparents fought.

The evil has come home to roost among us.

Sliding down the slippery slope

All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. - Thomas Jefferson

We are moving backwards as a nation. In the days of my childhood, my parents supported the Civil Rights movement. Today, we increasingly hear stories like the following: of black youths threatened by whites with nooses; then facing ' legal' injustice in an all-white courtroom. I type the word 'white' in lower case to make a point here: it does not deserve to be capitalized. It has become a small word, representing a small kind of people.

In a small, still mostly segregated, section of rural Louisiana, an all white jury heard a series of white witnesses called by a white prosecutor testify in a courtroom overseen by a white judge in a trial of a fight at the local high school where a white student who had been making racial taunts was hit by black students. The fight was the culmination of a series of racial incidents starting when whites responded to black students sitting under the "white tree" at their school by hanging three nooses from the tree. The white jury and white prosecutor and all white supporters of the white victim were all on one side of the courtroom. The black defendant, 17-year-old Mychal Bell, and his supporters were on the other. The jury quickly convicted Mychal Bell of two felonies - aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. Bell, who was a 16-year-old sophomore football star at the time he was arrested, faces up to 22 years in prison. Five other black youths await similar trials on second-degree attempted murder and conspiracy charges.

This is the America of the New Millennium. This is the America of George W. Bush.

We have regressed in our treatment of race, separation of church and state, health care, the environment, our adherence to the rules of law and justice - and now we even condone torture. The decay is nearly complete.

A few days ago, Ann Counter declared - without shame, and on National TV - that she 'wished John Edwards had been blown up by terrorists.' No one arrested her for these hateful words; although if a liberal, or heaven forbid a black man had made a similar remark, he would undoubtedly have landed in Gitmo. We've always had that nasty double standard.

Scooter Libby is now a convicted felon; and yet he will not serve jail time because our president, the highest elected official in the land (I use the word 'elected' loosely,) will not adhere to the rule of law. I suppose this shouldn't surprise me. It's only that pesky double standard again. This administration doesn't even respect the Constitution. Any law is subject to the 'Decider's interpretation; and all are secondary to amassing and holding political power and wealth.

Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear. - Thomas Jefferson

Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny. - Thomas Jefferson

The beginning of the end

Once upon a time, our nation's founders had high hopes for this fledgling democracy. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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."

Many of these same founders wrote that they didn't fully expect that this new democracy, this republic could endure the test of time - not without constant vigilance on the part of the citizenry.

The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty. - James Madison

I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts. - Abraham Lincoln

We have lost our vigilance, and we are on the brink of losing our democracy. Thomas Jefferson once said "Every generation needs a new revolution." I suppose by these standards we did pretty well, because this democracy has lasted for over 200 years. They say all good things must come to an end. Is this the end of the dream?

The Holocaust survivor is right: we are not who we once were. I see what he sees, but I am staying. This is, after all my country... my responsibility.

I am always frustrated when I watch dissenting voices in the GOP and DoJ simply resign their jobs, rather than blow the whistle and try to save our government. I personally can't quit, leave, give up, or stop speaking out when I see our nation sliding down the slope. As long as we continue to speak for truth and justice, democracy lives in us.

I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. - James Madison

Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories. - Thomas Jefferson

This is not the fight for an elderly, Holocaust survivor... but it is my fight, my responsibility. I believe that in every life, there is an opportunity to stand up and be counted - to stand for something more than simply surviving, eating, sleeping and living our own private existences.

I don't recognize this country anymore, and I wonder if the America I knew as a child is gone - or perhaps vanished long before I was born.

Perhaps, as Frank Zappa once said, the reality of democracy was over long ago.

The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way, and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theatre. - Frank Zappa

Maybe everything I believed in truly was an illusion; a myth created for a high school history book.

In spite of the sadness I feel today, I will speak out on behalf of the America that I once thought I knew: until they come for my keyboard. I owe a debt to those who paid for this idea with their blood. I owe it to them to speak on their behalf, as they have fought on mine.

I also believe that we at home are the guardians of our troops overseas. We are their voice, we have their backs when they are unable to speak out for themselves. If I can do nothing else to change the course of human events, I will continue to pressure Congress into bringing them home. Perhaps one day, Congress will choose to save us all from this wretched, lawless presidency. I suspect they're running out of time. Democracy is gasping now.

Howard Zinn taught me that history always has several sides to it; the side told by the 'winner,' in the history books, and the other sides.

As I grew up, I gradually learned about the KKK (they are in our neck of the woods,) our treatment and near annihilation of the American Indians - and our treatment of African Americans has been abysmal since the beginning. I also discovered that our government was conducting secret activities around the world. I was a college student journalist during Iran/Contra, and I remember covering it for our paper.

But the nation was always based on a higher ideal: we could always choose to elevate ourselves (and many have tried) to the standards, the possibilities that our forefathers offered us. They made it clear that liberty begins in the mind, and is safeguarded with knowledge, education and above all, reason.

Because history is a complicated thing, I always clung to the fact that at least our ideals were in the right place. Now those very ideals are under attack... and this I cannot tolerate.

Happy Birthday America. Rest in peace.

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