It's Monday, July 2, 2007. I want to post something about Independence Day but nothing fresh comes to mind. I have the same feeling of slogging along in a political mire that I have had for the last several years. It's tiresome waiting for some trends to run the course.
I am hopeful that the next administration will be able to do better than the one we now have. The president is certain to be a Democrat unless a dark horse from some other quarter enters the race in the next few months, which I doubt. Bush was on the right track with his attempt to push through immigration reform, but he failed...twice. That defeat almost certainly put Latino grassroots politics into motion in a way that nothing else could do. The results will be disasterous for the Grand Old Party. You just can't talk to some people.
This morning's Huffpo links to a great video by Drew Westen with an audio stream of Lyndon Johnson, another Texan, addressing the same issues in 1965 that have been high-profile this year. It's worth a few minutes of your time. Plus ça change...
The rest of this morning's post is from last year. I checked the links and they are still active. Bob Edwards' reading of the Declaration of Independence is classic. I never tire of hearing it. I don't think NPR plays it any more. Edwards retired and is now with XM Radio and several other voices heard reading are people now gone. The multimedia link seemed overloaded when I checked, but the audio stream alone (which is just as good) worked fine.
Take a look at last year's post and enjoy the link to NPR's annual tradition of famous voices reading the Declaration of Independence. Takes about nine minutes but for me it is a holiday tradition. Gets better every year. As I listened this year I could not help imagining that in today's world, two hundred thirty years later, the United States may have become a dominant world power with ambitions similar to those that Great Britain showed in 1776. As the list of injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States was being read I could hear in the background of my mind the voices of ordinary people in Iraq and Afghanistan whose history and way of life have been and continue to be assaulted by forces over which they have little control.
Yes, I know, we are defending our freedom here by waging war there. But I'm sure that is of little consolation to those who have been either directly or indirectly affected by war.
...dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people... refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, 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.
...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.
...erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
...kept among us...Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures... affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power...Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us...protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
...cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world...imposing Taxes on us without our Consent...depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury...transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences...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...abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us...ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
...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....constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive...to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
...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.
Yes, I know. They are the savages and we are the enlightened. They are a
population in darkness and we are only trying to bring them light.
It is worth remembering that a few decades after the Declaration of Independence was penned the republic which published it broke out in a bloody civil war, the echoes of which are sounding to this day. Even at the time it was written there was no clear agreement the phrases such as "all men" and "endowed by their Creator" really meant. They saw no contradiction in the language of this document and the practice of slavery or the fact that women were not allowed to vote.
Looking back through the lens of history I see a sequence of events that brought us to a better understanding of the eloquent words of the Declaration of Independence. But looking into the future I have a hard time projecting the same from today's contradictions. I read about a new book looking at the evils of torture and how counterproductive it really is in winning the larger issues of conflict. Although it "works" in some instances -- if that means extracting valuable intelligence from an unwilling captive -- a larger picture shows more problems than solutions. Before the sun went down the book was being criticized from all sides, from the Wall Street Journal to the talk show that I heard on the way to work.
It is easy in today's world to run quickly past cherished civil behaviors and principles in order to justify a more benign form of torture, since in degree it is somehow less odious than the extreme savagery of those we aim to defeat. The same voices that would argue against moral relativism are those speaking the loudest when that same rhetorical device serves their argument.
Happy Independence Day, all.
NPR link to the Declaration of Independence here.