Independence Day – Lest we forget…

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.

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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

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 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.
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.

Text transcription & document photo courtesy of the National archives http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_zoom_1.html

Variations on a theme

I spent 4 hours today overheating at an annual village fair helping out at a First Amendment booth. Besides literature to hand out, the main attraction was thought bubbles that people could fill in wth whatever thoughts or ideas they wanted to share – no assigned topics, no judgements – and the completed bubbles were hung up around the booth. The plan, as I understand it, is to display the thoughts at a local library in the near future. Some people, unsurprisingling, just walked on by, some actively scoffed, and there were political commenters from all views, but many used the opportunity to offer words of hope, empowerment, peace. The messages, including the political ones, were overwhelmingly positive, and the contributors came in all ages and genders. It was a good thing, and I hope that the importance of the freedom of speech was reinforced in a  fun way,

But, of course, the First Amendment to the US Consitution covers a bit more than free speech. It also covers freedoms of religion, and freedom of the press, and the right to sue the government for the redress of grievances.

But, it is freedom of the press that often, especially recently, needs to be reinforced.

“A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad.” — Albert Camus

 

Freedom of the press was explicitly guaranteed by our founders. And along with it the right of free expression and the right to dissent. This was such a strong foundational principle that it was codified within the first 10 amendments to our constitution – what we refer to as the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, adopted in 1791, states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The press is so critical to the functioning of our Democratic Republic, that it is frequently referred to as the 4th Estate, or 4th branch of government. It is an important piece in the checks and balances that were built into our system. In the words of Harry S Truman, 33rd President of the United States:

“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

I’d like to hope that we haven’t begun following that path, but I fear that we may have. It is up to all of us to help make sure that we stay on the path of freedom and openness by paying attention and speaking out (and writing).

 

True Patriotism

As we head into another weekend, and approach the 241st anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, I find myself thinking, not of our founders, but of Theodore Roosevelt, our 26th President, and wonder what he would make of the threats to the national park system that he championed. I also wonder what he would make of today’s Republican Party (I suspect Ronald Reagan would find it nearly unrecognizable). And I thought I’d share this quote as reminder that true patriotism, as Clarence Darrow noted, hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else.

In that vein, I offer this quote of Theodore Roosevelt’s as something we need to keep in mind as we ride the rollercoaster that is Donald Trump’s presidency:

“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.”

Image of Theodore Roosevelt was borrowed from the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Ear worms & profound thoughts all in one

“‘Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure”
— Queen & David Bowie “Under Pressure“
Indeed.   As Don Henley & the Eagles also put it in Last Resort – “‘Cause there is no more new frontier/ we have got to make it here”.
We all have a responsibility to make our corner of the world a better place.
Have a peaceful weekend.
Image of clouds, summer of  2016.

Tuesday’s Quotes – May 16, 2017 – Moderation

“We are now forming a republican government. Real liberty is never found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.”

Alexander Hamilton, Constitutional Convention,  June 1787

It seemed like a good time to dust this quote off. Our government was created as a Democratic Republic primarily try to minimize the impact of extremist views, which are a risk in a true democracy, and to thereby protect the rights of those in the minority. It seems like out polarization keeps getting worse – what we need, and do not have, is both a president and a congress that are willing to work together – dare I say compromise – to unify the country, in stead of actively promoting the divisions.

Alexander Hamilton image from http://www.biography.com/people/alexander-hamilton-9326481

Tuesday’s Quotes – May 9, 2017 – On opinions & thought

“Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

— John F. Kennedy

I’ve been increasingly dismayed at how many people espouse extremely strong positions based on something akin to ether. In conversation, it often becomes obvious that those strongly held opinions are at odds with what the speaker really thinks about the topic. Although this phenomena is certainly not new – the desire to follow a path laid by others is innate to us humans because joining together is how we survive – but our world has become more crowded with information, accurate or not, and everyone’s opinions (even mine – isn’t that the point of this blog?), that we frequently do not take the time to think the things that we are hearing through. Ironic that in the information age, many of us seem reluctant to look into a claim before we allow ourselves to react, or before we help to spread it via social media. I’ve even seen things posted by people who I know would never have shared an article had they read it – because the article itself was opposition to the headline. And these are not isolated incidents, not are they limited to individuals of any one political persuasion (or even nationality), or any particular age group. The spanning of generations reinforces my own, anecdotally based, opinion that this is not an educational issue, or a matter of upbringing. I think it is a by-product of having too much available to take in – it is just easier to let someone else tell us what the truth is than to reason it out for ourselves.

So, I’m taking this opportunity, once again, to share the 10 Commandments of Logic:

IMG_0595

JFK photo from insidegov.com

Originally posted May 19, 2015.