Fourth Of July Reflections
I didn't spend my Fourth of July in celebration the way I usually do. I had a lot of other things going on; it was the first time in a very long time that I hadn't partaken.
Last night and this morning, I had a lot of time to reflect on what the holiday meant -- and means -- to me.
Juxtaposition: July 4th Deadly Duality
A comment I happened across on Delphi Forums struck me as particularly significant for some reason. It was this:
Bozo the Clown -- an iconic figure known for entertaining children and who many adults may remember from their childhood memories...an apt reference, given that roughly half the nation still plays childish games with name-calling and cliquish groups of exclusionary focus. Too many of them apparently missed the message of Bozo.
Jesse Helms, a powerful icon as well -- one who fought against racial equality and gay rights.
From an article on AOL,
Helms was a polarizing figure, both at home and in Washington. He delighted in forcing roll-call votes that required Democrats to take politically difficult votes on federal funding for art he deemed pornographic, school busing, flag-burning and other cultural issues. Among his first forays into politics was working in 1950 to elect segregationist candidate Willis Smith to the Senate, and he later fought against much of the civil rights movement.
In his last two runs for Senate, he defeated black former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt in 1990 and 1996 by running racially tinged campaigns.
In the first race, a Helms commercial showed a white fist crumpling up a job application, these words underneath: "You needed that job ... but they had to give it to a minority."
"He'll be remembered, in part, for the strong racist streak that articulated his politics and almost all of his political campaigns — they were racialized in the most negative ways," said Kerry Haynie, a political science professor at Duke University, who noted that unlike George Wallace and Strom Thurmond, Helms never repented for such tactics.
"He was sort of unrepentant until the end," Haynie said.
Helms at times played a pivotal role in national GOP politics — supporting Ronald Reagan in 1976 in a presidential primary challenge to then-President Ford. Reagan's candidacy was near collapse when it came time for the North Carolina primary. Helms was in charge of the effort, and Reagan won a startling upset that resurrected his challenge.
That was quite the contrast to the nature of the characters of Jefferson and Adams. Adams was, in the words of Jefferson, the "Collosus of the Congress" and the driving force for separation of the colonies from England. Jefferson was the articulate writer of the Declaration of Independence who was also a major proponent of the necessity for a "wall" separating Church and State for the good of a true Democratic Republic.
Jefferson's words regarding Church and State can be found in the Wikipedia article about him (linked above):
...in 1786, the Virginia General Assembly passed Jefferson's Bill for Religious Freedom, which he had first submitted in 1779 and was one of only three accomplishments he put in his own epitaph. The law read:
"No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."
In his 1787 Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson stated:
"Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make half the world fools and half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the world..."
Jefferson sought what he called a "wall of separation between Church and State," which he believed was a principle expressed by the First Amendment. This phrase has been cited several times by the Supreme Court in its interpretation of the Establishment Clause. In an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, he wrote:
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State."
Also offering insight into his thinking on the separation of Church and State, is the following quote from Notes on the State of Virginia.
"The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
Yes, the Fourth of July 2008 certainly stands in direct juxtaposition to the Fourth of July 1826. While the latter saw us lose two statesmen who had helped found this nation pass away into the sands of time within hours of one another, the former date will be known for the passing of two clowns: one who entertained children, and one who perpetuated and enabled childish adults.
Judgement at Nuremberg -- Annotated Transcript for Today's War Criminals edition
From Conviction, 3 Nov 2007
This morning, I was not surprised to read a piece by Kagro X over on DailyKos entitled Surprise! Rove's not honoring his subpoena.. Even as we come off a day celebrating our nation's official birth as a land governed by laws not men -- a nation built upon the premise that all men are created equal, and that entitled to the blessings of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- we are reminded of the travesty of justice and destruction of our founding heritage by the most criminal Administration in the history of this country.
In 2007, I'd written a piece called Conviction that took part of the transcript from the movie Judgement at Nuremberg and annotated it with appropriate footnotes to put it into today's modern context. Here, then, is an extract from that essay in "honor" of the continuing criminal malfeasance of the Bush Administration, and the apparent inability of our Congress to enforce compliance with oversight and accountability. I think it is both a telling and a necessary reminder for all parties:
Simple murders and atrocities do not constitute...the gravamen of the charges in this indictment.
Rather, the charge is that of conscious participation...in a nationwide, government-organized system...of cruelty and injustice...in violation of every moral and legal principle...known to all civilized nations.
The tribunal has carefully studied the record...and found therein...abundant evidence to support...beyond a reasonable doubt...the charges against these defendants.
Herr Rolfe...in his very skillful defense...has asserted that there are others...who must share the ultimate responsibility...for what happened here in Germany.
There is truth in this.
The real complaining party at the bar in this courtroom...is civilization.
But the tribunal does say...that the men in the dock are responsible for their actions.
Men who sat in black robes...in judgment on other men. Men who took part... in the enactment of laws and decrees...Unitary Executive theory the purpose of which was the extermination of human beings.Illegal war
The principle...of criminal law in every civilized society...has this in common: Any person who sways another to commit murder...any person who furnishes...the lethal weapon for the purpose of the crime...any person who is an accessory to the crime...is guilty.
Herr Rolfe...further asserts that the defendant Janning...was an extraordinary jurist...and acted in what he thought was the best interest of his country.
There is truth in this also. Janning, to be sure...is a tragic figure. We believe he loathed the evil he did. But compassion for the present torture of his soul...must not beget forgetfulness...of the tortureAbu Graihb and the death of millionsIraq dead and displaced by the government of which he was a part.
Janning's record and his fate...illuminate the most shattering truth that has emerged from this trial. If he and all of the other defendants had been degraded perverts...if all of the leaders of the Third Reich...had been sadistic monsters and maniacs...then these events would have no more moral significance...than an earthquake, or any otherCalifornia wildfires natural catastrophe.Katrina
But this trial has shown...that under a national crisis9-11...ordinary, even able and extraordinary men...can delude themselves into the commission of crimesIllegal, warrantless wiretapping...so vast and heinousWaterboarding, rendition that they beggar the imagination.
No one who has sat through the trial can ever forget them. Men sterilizedImmigrant denied medical care because of political belief. A mockeryLimbaugh on Fox made of friendship and faith. The murder of children.cluster bombs
How easily it can happen.
There are those in our own countryRight-wing groups, too...who today speak of the protection of country...of survival.
A decision must be made in the life of every nation...at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy...to rest survival upon what is expedient,Patriot Act to look the other wayHypocrisy
The answer to that is: Survival as what?
A country isn't a rock. It's not an extension of one's self. It's what it stands for.
It's what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult.
Before the people of the world...let it now be noted...that here in our decision, this is what we stand for: Justice...truth...and the value of a single human beingRogue Prosecutors.
We have become the mirror of history, and a fractured one at that. On the one hand, we have a tyranny under the rule of an out of control Executive Branch headed by a man named George, and on the other, we have sauntered blithely into a path resulting in a state of criminal corruption and the commission of atrocities that are reminiscent of one of the most evil warmongering and hate-filled regimes of the previous century.
Where are the New American Patriots of today? Where are those who will stand against the continued onslaught by this Administration and their enablers and stand up for the principles of law, of justice, of liberty and of civilization?
What our country has allowed, through complacency, is the development and fostering of wrong-thinking hoards of drone-like, Borg-like followers who happily speak of "patriotism" when they mean merely blind nationalism, and who subvert the law and the Constitution to their own ends by justifying the means through God and country...or through national security.
There's another piece I'd found on DailyKos by the diarist LithiumCola called The President of Jerk -- it's an eye-opener, particularly the excerpts he provides of the blaise attitude of fright-wingers.
They are not Patriotic. They do not embody the ideals of freedom, liberty and justice that forged the foundation of this nation.
They are what we should always strive to rail against, tooth and nail, in our ongoing fight to retain our democracy and preserve, protect and defend our Constitution, Bill of Rights and national integrity.
We are a nation in crisis, our national identity trashed and our government controlled by the worst kind of domestic enemy -- the kind that subverts, distorts and erodes it from within.
We have been a good, strong nation; we still possess a majority of people who are honorable and who will stand together for the preservation of freedom and justice.
It may be a long road back toward sanity, and it will undoubtedly be a painful growth experience for the nation as a whole as we extricate ourselves from the congealing pool of eviscerated liberty and shredded realities that we've become mired in, but we can do it.
We must do it.
There can never again be a darkness such as this, averting our eyes and distracting us from the important vigilance with which we must defend this nation from all enemies, both foreign and domestic.
These are the thoughts that haunt me today, the day after our nation celebrates its Independence. These are the inspirations that guide me now, hoping to make this nation a better place, once again, for the generations of the future.