Monday, September 01, 2008

America

Let me ask you a question.

What is America? And I mean, specifically, the United States of America.

Is it a place?

I don't think so. I mean couldn't the USA be the USA if its lines were drawn to the north or even to the south? There were 13 states in the beginning, and 48 when destiny was made manifest. Yet, the USA was as much the USA at 13 as it was at 48. And, it was the same when its boarders bounded across the ocean and the arctic circle becoming 49, and then 50.

No, I think it is not so much a place.

Is it a people?

In the beginning, again, the people were English and Scottish, Irish and Welsh. There have been French and Spanish. Italian and Jew. African and Native and Chinese. There is no homogeneity in the cultural make up of America. "American" does not mean white. It does not mean Christian. Americans are Americans no matter what continent their parents came from. No matter what color their skin is. No matter what religion they practice if they practice any at all.

America is not, therefore, defined by its people.

Then what? What is America?

There are certain truths, Thomas Jefferson wrote, that are self-evident. We are all created equal. Contrary to Orwellian antagonists, no one is "More Equal" than anyone else.

We are all born, also, with certain rights, which cannot be taken away. These include, but are not limited to, Life, Liberty and the ability to seek personal happiness. There are natural rights, inherent in humanity, and the only reason to have government, the only reason we choose to imbue select individuals with power and authority is for the sole purpose of protecting those rights.

That is a powerful idea. Jefferson's words and the idea embodied in them toppled an empire, freed a nation, and reformed the entire world. America is the incorporation of that idea.

America is not a place or a people. It is an idea that continues to grow and continues to struggle against the oppressive darkness of power.

The ideas propelled 13 colonies toward independence and statehood. The ideas became law and took root in the second, and even more remarkable, document, The Constitution. It was remarkable in that it formed a government by limiting its powers. It defined governmental function and capped its scope, thus ensuring the rights of the people and the powers of the states.

It eschewed power in a world where power was horded.

And then, as a safeguard guarantee that the rights of the people would be held sacred, the first ten amendments were added in one bill, expressly protecting the rights of speech, assembly, religion, self armament, security in persons and affects, due process, justice and fair trials. It set up a barricade against the historic excesses and over-reaching of government. For once, setting the dignity and respect of the individual over that of the government.

It was a radical idea. It still is.

But we forget.

We think America is a land filled with shopping malls, sports teams and movie theaters. For most, it is a land of white people who speak English, beset on all sides by funny-sounding Chinese merchants, dirty illegal Mexicans and god-hating suicidal Arabs.

For some, America is a flag, because a flag is easier to understand than the idea it is supposed to represent.

For some it is an arrogant fictitious assumption of omnipotent military might, which has been sadly grounded in disastrous reality over the last 7 years.

And for those in power, or those with the wealth to control those in power, America is a machine, which mines wealth from the poor and hard working, which borrows unfathomable wealth from dangerous neighbors and funnels all into the hands of the very few at the very top. For them, America is the ultimate source of wealth and power.

And we let them get away with it.

Why?

Because we've forgotten what America is. We've forgotten what the idea was. We forgot what it is we're supposed to be doing.

We should be holding our leaders accountable, and holding their actions up to the brilliant glare of the law. But we don't.

We don't hold our leaders accountable. We don't hold our neighbors accountable. We don't hold ourselves accountable.

We sit, and mumble, if we care to pay attention at all. We have become complacent. We have become cynical. We have allowed our political discourse to become a circus spectacle, easy to swallow, filled with shiny baubles.

I was reminded recently by one friend that there are actually people in this country who will not vote for one particular presidential candidate, regardless of his views, simply because his skin is dark.

I was alerted by another friend this evening that political signs are being stolen and cars with political stickers are being vandalized, here in Oregon, with symbols of hate.

How?

How can we even begin to address the corruption, greed, and small-mindedness of our government when our own people debase themselves in such juvenile idiocy? How can we hold the government to the bill of rights when we have no respect for the rights ourselves?

Do we even deserve Jefferson's words anymore? Can America ever go back to them?

I don't know. Although, I hope we can.

But for now, I think, all I have is that Hope.

15 comments:

  1. My sincerest hope is combined in these words from The West Wing:

    Major Tate: Sir, we're not prejudiced toward homosexuals.
    Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: You just don't want to see them serving in the Armed Forces?
    Major Tate: No sir, I don't.
    Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: 'Cause they impose a threat to unit discipline and cohesion.
    Major Tate: Yes, sir.
    Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: That's what I think, too. I also think the military wasn't designed to be an instrument of social change.
    Major Tate: Yes, sir.
    Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: The problem with that is that what they were saying to me 50 years ago. Blacks shouldn't serve with whites. It would disrupt the unit. You know what? It did disrupt the unit. The unit got over it. The unit changed. I'm an admiral in the U.S. Navy and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff... Beat that with a stick.

    Let us hope we get over it.

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  2. OK that post made my brain hurt. I'm sorry that the rednecks have infiltrated your area. They have probably moved there from so. cali. Although, I think that I probably hung out with most of the remaining white trash on Sunday at the race.

    Here's a question: Would everyone be so fired up and supportive of Obama if he was white? Would everyone like the choice of Palin more if she was a man?

    However you slice that onion this election is about race and gender.

    My guess is that the secretary of state will undoubtedly be gay.

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  3. oh and let me add...that my friends is why we need a third political party. At lease a viable one.

    Why is Bob Barr not invited to the Presidential debates? Why was Ron Paul made fun of?

    Because they make sense. And who wants that?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Team America12:03 PM

    America, Fuck Yeah!

    Cola
    Walmart
    McDonald's
    Chili's
    Target
    Comcast
    Dairy Queen
    Monsanto
    Starbucks
    Marriott
    Red Robin
    Eddie Bauer
    Olive Garden
    Merck
    CNN
    Wonder Bread
    Countrywide
    Applebee's
    Bank of America
    Hormel
    Direct TV
    Target
    Pfizer
    Anhuerser-Busch
    Red Lobster
    PetCo

    ReplyDelete
  5. What is Monsanto?

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  6. Jefferson was high. Hamilton was the smart one of the bunch.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Team America3:57 PM

    Monsanto is the company that genetically engineered the corn used to make your cornchips. Now a bunch of farmers are being sued by Monsanto for patent infringment because their crops were cross polinated with Monsanto patented plant DNA and therefore they are infringing on patent rights. Monsanto is also attempting to patent DNA of everything you eat, including pigs.

    http://www.mindfully.org/GE/2005/Monsanto-Patent-Control19jan05.htm

    For Pig Patent issues here is 1 of 5.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-ouf_gmA5o

    Here is Monsanto's feel good
    website:

    ttp://www.monsanto.com/

    Remember that milk scare in the late 70's or early 80's and Bovine Growth hormone? Thank Monsanto.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axU9ngbTxKw

    See also here:
    http://www.straight.com/article/manchurian-ideas-mirror-9-11

    ReplyDelete
  8. monsanto4:01 PM

    You're welcome.

    ReplyDelete
  9. We have a crisis. Its not the air or water getting polluted. Its not that we won't have that Texas tea to power our cars for that much longer. Its not even that we want to have a big polar bear roast.

    Its that we've completely devalued the idea of public service. It used to be a calling. An honour - Stepping up to serve something larger than yourself. Whether that was political office, police, fire, etc. The idea that you might go into service for the community good.

    Now, that idea is the punchline of a joke. So, not surprisingly, we don't draw the best and the brightest to pound the pavement and get into service for the community. We tear those people up - So, it takes the truly brave, or the extraordinarily well connected, to run for office.

    Similarly - we have abdicated our thinking. Given over that power to talk radio or the blogs or wherever else you happen to get your particular flavor of talking points. People don't sit down to rational discourse - They throw bullet points that they recycle from someone else at one another, and wait to see who yells the loudest.
    I don't mind someone disagreeing with me - but do it because you've actually thought about the issues, not because you saw a 45 second sound bite and now are parroting it back to me.

    For what its worth - We've had campaign signs stolen on our street. We've had random passers-by yell through the door, or scrape bumper stickers off. That's not political discourse - that's hooliganism.

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  10. Obama4:18 PM

    I have a message of hope and change. Yes we can!!!

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  11. I don't eat pig. But I do love a "Cool Ranch Dorito." In Benelux they call them "Cool American Doritos." In the UK, "Cool Original Doritos." They taste the same no matter where you buy them, though.

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  12. I'm comforted to know that someone else out there knows that Monsanto is a minion of the devil. Speaking of which, haven't they changed their name recently because of all of the past negative associations with them?

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  13. aww, we were fucked from the very beginning. People who settled here were weirdo religious outcasts, completely out of their element: scared witless of the forest around them, the natives, of each other. As soon as they could they moved further and further away from one another: abandoning the village-style settlement for more remote farms away from a central hub. The American as individual. Subjugated nature and its inhabitants. Created filthy cities of hopeless squalor to supplant any grand ideas of centers of intellect or culture. Industrial Revolution? Death knell! Mechanized death! Ha ha ha! Cities became zones of manufacture, more and more flocked to them for hope of livelihood. Grand avenues and "City Beautiful" a mockery of the tubercular slums at the outskirts. Hoi polloi! Farms became mechanized. Train travel, canals, conquest of Mexico. Big war fought amongst ourselves so that the North wouldn't lose control of the hugely productive South. Racial tension, labor agitation, cities more and more crammed with people, disease. Technological advancements! Telegraph, radio, commerce becoming perfected and the largesse of big steel, railroad, coal. Collapse of an agrarian model, collapse of a financial model. War! Horrifying to watch, but we should have stayed out of it! Nope: went in, guns blazing. Set the world up for another go-round. Here we go! Perfected the war machine, perfected the money machine, perfected the machine. Atomic age! Everything is easy, every man the king of his own castle. Suburbia at it's giddy zenith, the automobile buzzes along the Federal Highway. Cheap goods, cheap living, and the everyman has his voice: a BIG voice. And the big voice says: "by gum, the average Joe is okay, and I don't need a bunch of eggheads to tell me anything!" But we kept making eggheads, and they were wrong about everything except the power of advertising. Oh, and the ultimate expression of Capitalistic genius: the Corporation as living entity. Wowzers! What can't we do now? Everyone for himself, and convenience ahoy! The money's good, Sam! And what was left of the boring old culture (where people actually went through the trouble to learn how to think all fancy) gets swept under the rug for the thrill of cheap hamburgers, rock 'n roll, miniskirts, cars with fins, beers and bar b que. Yee haw! And now were having a good ole time, because all the crummy jobs are being done by wetbacks or Chinamen or towelheads, and all we've got to do is sit back and enjoy the good life boy oh boy aint it grand?

    And thus ends my Louis Ferdinand Celine/John Dos Passos inspired stream of conscious tirade. I admit it's ridiculous, but it was fun.

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  14. Word!! Check out the big brain on brad. Say what again mother fucker.

    That was fun to read. Hold me Chris and have my babies. Can we still pray together?

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  15. Good lord, Dr. B, I always thought Tom was the gay one...

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Be compelling.

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