Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Fourth of July

A Happy Fourth of July to all who pass by this blog! Today is a holiday that I like to remember for its original intent: the anniversary of the proclamation we know as the Declaration of Independence, and the beginnings of revolution by the Founding Fathers. Very few, in our willfully ignorant, consumerist society, really understand the gravity of what they did, nor the risks they took. In fact, a recent Marist poll revealed that over one-fourth of the population didn't know what country we declared independence from! I find this almost unbelievable, and so does Free-Spirited Ruminations:
Wow! Didn't they ever hear the famous phrase by Paul Revere warning the residents that "The British are coming?" Or ever open a history book? China? MEXICO? Mexico didn't even exist in 1776! Seriously, this level of stupidity is downright scary. Perhaps the fireworks are just pretty colors to this group
Pretty colors, indeed. The Founding Fathers, in contemporary parlance, were revolutionaries and terrorists. That line in the Declaration of Independence about "we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor?" That wasn't fancy talkin', as Sarah Palin would say; it was an open declaration (duh!) to the world that they were risking everything they had for the sake of liberty. They risked a dear price for their action and beliefs (though not as awful a price as described in a popular email that shows up around this time every year; always check, kids!) and gambled that they would succeed. Failure meant that they would instead be branded terrorists and found guilty of inciting insurrection.

But  because they won and because we are the beneficiaries of their actions, on this day we call them "the Founding Fathers," are taught about them in school (or so I thought before I saw that poll), and honor and remember this day as the birth of our country. Otherwise, today we would be British subjects, and schoolchildren would learn about the evil George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and their band of traitors; Benedict Arnold would be a hero of the Empire, and slavery would probably have ended without a civil war.

As a progressive and African-American, this day has always tasted bittersweet to me. I revere the words in the Declaration of Independence, especially this paragraph:
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.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
But I also recall that the section condemning Britain for the slave trade was deleted, and that today, we still haven't fully endowed some of our citizens with these self-evident rights. As progressives we are mindful of the need to "alter or abolish" our government when it had "become destructive of these ends." as it was from 2001 to 2009. That 's what the election of Barack Obama was all about. We are ever mindful of the rights of the individual, and of the responsibility for the American government to be a government "of the people, by the people, for the people."

Unfortunately, conservatives - notably the Tea Party types - don't understand what exactly was meant by "alter and abolish." It doesn't mean that when you don't get your way, you start a civil war! It also  doesn't mean that you can run around brandishing deadly weapons in an  irresponsible manner, because your candidate didn't get elected. But neither does it mean that righties are the only ones who should be armed. I came across something on DailyKos today that I think all progressives should read: Angry Mouse's post "Why liberals should love the Second Amendment." Some very cogent points made in favor of the right to bear arms that should be of interest to you.

But I digress. My point is that today is a day to honor revolution, sacrifice, and the willingness to risk much to gain much, not an excuse to shop, overeat, and drink too much. We as progressives should honor and observe that selfsame will to revolution and sacrifice, the will and determination to make government reflect the will and the needs of our citizens. We need to remember that as we fight the wingnuts for the soul of America, we need not employ violence in the pursuit of our beliefs, but neither should we shirk from the necessity of violence in self-defense. We need to remember the spirit of those who have gone before us, on this day and every day, and neither falter nor fail in our task to repair, restore, and renew our country.

The late Steve Gilliard wrote:
It was the liberals who opposed the Nazis while the conservatives were plotting to get their brown shirts or fund Hitler. It was the liberals who warned about Spain and fought there, who joined the RAF to fight the Germans, who brought democracy to Germany and Japan. Let us not forget it was the conservatives who opposed defending America until the Germans sank our ships. They would have done nothing as Britain came under Nazi control. It was they who supported Joe McCarthy and his baseless, drink fueled claims.

Without liberals, there would be no modern America, just a Nazi sattlelite [sic] state. Liberals weak on defense? Liberals created America's defense. The conservatives only need vets at election time.

It is time to stop looking for an accomodation [sic] with the right. They want none for us. They want to win, at any price. So, you have a choice: be a fighting liberal or sit quietly. I know what I am, what are you? 
Once again and always, it comes down to the willingness to "pledge...our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." 

What am I? I'm a Fighting Liberal. What are you? 

Happy Fourth of July!

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