Last night, a couple of my neighbors were setting off fireworks. They are both married men in their early 30's but still occasionally trapped in their childhood. Most often this reversion occurs at Halloween, when they accessorize each other's homes with toilet paper, and on July 4th. I like my neighbors; for most of the year, they actually act their age. I can also count on them to provide a free and often spectacular fireworks display for the next few days, culminating on July 4th.
The stores are all having July 4th sales and there is red, white and blue everywhere. Flags are flying from mailboxes and we proclaim that we are celebrating democracy and patriotism. Perhaps we are, but I am not convinced. Yesterday the United States Supreme Court released an opinion that eviscerates the 1954 and 1955 Brown decisions. I doubt most people know or understand the issues that were at stake in the case. We are still involved in a war that was started based on intentional dissemination by our government of misinformation and lies. We invaded a sovereign nation, not because it had attacked us or because we were in danger of harm from that nation, but because we needed to vent our frustration and rage over 9/11 on someone, and we couldn't find Osama Bin Laden but we had Saddam Hussein's address. This nation has lost its position as a moral leader in the world and is instead the big bully, taking over the sandbox to meet our own purposes and damn to all who get in our way.
As a nation, we have grown immune to the suffering of others. The homeless are a blight to be hidden away, and so we support laws to make certain that they don't offend our sensibilities by sleeping in parks or begging for food. We suffer mightily from NIMBY syndrome, (not in my back yard) when there is a proposal to build a group home for the mentally disabled in our neighborhoods. We proclaim that children are our most valuable natural resource but when there is a need to raise taxes in order to ensure that the children in our communities have quality educational opportunities, we protest loudly. We ignore that millions of our neighbors don't have health insurance and oppose or are indifferent to any solutions that propose a system of national health care.
We tremble in outrage at the notion that there are undocumented immigrants among us and staunchly proclaim that we must make laws establishing that our policy is "English only spoken here." We rant about being asked to press one for English and yet we travel to other countries and fully expect that hotel staff, guides, restaurant staff and all others involved in providing service to tourists, speak English, and typically, they do. We bask in our ignorance as one of the few major countries where most of us are illiterates when it comes to speaking any language except English.
As we approach this celebration of independence, please pause and reflect on the meaning behind this holiday. It is not about sales, or flying flags or even about setting off fireworks. The words of the men who founded this country best sum up the meaning of this holiday. They were landed gentry for the most part, all white, and all male, but somehow, the words in the Declaration of Independence are ageless and universal. I am hopeful that one day, as a nation, we will live up to them.
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislativepowers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.