We have seen the National Defense Authorization Act 2012 pass in the both houses of Congress and signed into law by the president of the United States that allows for indefinite detention of American citizens without habeas corpus. We have seen basic human rights ignored and denied by our fellow Americans through bans on gay marriage. We have seen basic health care and housing denied to our population because they haven’t the money to care for themselves. We have seen corporations evolve into entities that are considered individuals deserving rights. What this all means is that we have forgotten who we are. Any society, Roman, Ottoman, Egyptian, or any other, that forgets what it is, is doomed to reduction into oblivion so that something more aware and healthier can take its place.
When we removed ourselves from under the rule of King George III of Great Britain, we codified several facets of the lives we wanted into two documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
United States of America Declaration of Independence
“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.”
Most people discuss the “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” part of this sentence. A word at the beginning is much more intriguing – “self-evident.” They could have used the word “clear,” or perhaps “obvious,” but they chose “self-evident” in this beautifully-crafted statement. The authors made it clear that we as individuals are supposed to assume that all members of our society are equal and deserve the same treatment and benefits as every other citizen in our country. These rights are not issued with discretion by any other citizen; they are a natural part of being a citizen of this country. Not only are they a natural part of being American, we cannot be alienated or separated from those rights in any way by anyone or any entity, including our own government.
This first section is the part we all know; however, there is another part of this paragraph that we tend to forget:
“— 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.”
Most people discuss the rights identified in this section as pertaining to themselves, missing the broader picture. Individuals have the proclivity to protect their own land, property, families, and rights. It may be an instinctual process; however, by focusing on one’s self alone, one misses a larger responsibility as a citizen of the United States – to protect our nation as a whole. We rightly value those who serve in our military as protectors of our liberties, yet we forget that we, too, have a weight on our shoulders as well. We must assume the rights of all citizens and fight to correct anything that disallows members of our society from their freedoms.
In the Preamble to the Constitution, the first words, “We the People of the United States in order to form a more perfect Union,” reiterates what we found in the Declaration of Independence. The authors said again that we as a whole must come together to work hand-in-hand to achieve the most unified citizenry and society we can. It didn’t say, “We the governors…” or “We the few…” or “We the wealthy and powerful…” It says “We the People.” All the people. Everyone single one of us inclusively has a role to play to elevate ourselves toward the hopes of those who began our country.
Preamble to the United States of America’s Constitution
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The question for us becomes this: Which single individual in our country deserves less than everything promised in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution of the United States? Which person out of the millions born in our land or who have chosen our country as their homeland, requires or deserves fewer freedoms than any other? Any thinking person will, of course, respond that there is not one person that deserves less. Some might say non-Christians, gays, Muslims, the disabled, the mentally ill, or those born in other countries deserve fewer freedoms. Certainly those who would say this are wrong according to our nation’s establishing documents. They are acting contrary to our national intention. And who is responsible for defending these individuals who have lost their voice and their first-class citizenship in our country?
In the same way as our founding fathers intended, each one of us is responsible, wholly and without abjuration, to ensure the full and irrevocable rights of all American citizens through word and deed. Anything less is contrary to who we are as a people. As we’ve learned in other fallen civilizations, we must remember who we are if we are to survive as a nation.
Something is troubling me mightily. It must be, because I dreamt about it last night. In my dream, I was invited to speak before a joint session of Congress on the current status of our country. Now, this must have been a dream of the absurd, because certainly, no one would ever invite me to speak at that particular podium; and even if they did, what would I say? More importantly, who would really want to listen? But, speak I did.
Although I do not remember the full text of my speech, it carried this timbre:
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,
I normally would address you as “esteemed,” or “honorable,” but as a body, I don’t really think of you in that light anymore. I am sorry to lump all of you into a faceless group irrespective of the truth of your individual characters, but perhaps for a change, you will understand how we feel now when you do this to us. It is clear that, to you, we are not people; we are “constituents,” “statistics,” or “resources.” You assume our gullibility and ignorance. That is a mistake on your part.
I stand before you today to inform you about my perception of your work and our path as a nation. Both are failing, and they are failing at your hands. When I see your choices and listen to your words, I do not recognize statesmen and stateswomen for the most part; I see arrogant, ideological zealots who are more interested in firming your place in history than serving the people who elected you. You allow the wealthiest in our country, of which many of you can be counted, to decide what is best for the majority of us, who are poor and working-poor. You permit corporate interests to surmount the needs of our children, the disabled, and veterans. You propagate other countries’ dependence upon us on the backs of citizens of the United States who ourselves are rapidly becoming residents of a second-world country. The most challenging part of all of this is that you have heard my words so often that you have had to close your ears and hearts to them just to protect your sense of self. If you actually internalized these sentiments and thoughts, you would despair.
Yet, I must backtrack for a moment. This is not wholly your responsibility. It is ours. We elected you, and reelected you, then elected you-substitutes when your term-limits arrived. The truth is that you, too, have become interchangeable faces with your predecessors. You could disappear today, someone would take your place, and we would barely blink; yet, you believe the hyperbole about your importance so elegantly crafted during your elections.
Your money does not make you more valuable than my friend, Carrie, who teaches art at a charter school. Your prominence does not make you more important than my friend, Amy, who works at a university. Your education does not make you more vital than my sister, Lorraine, who is a stay-at-home mom. You are important to your family and friends. We have created whatever external sense of importance you have. Remember that we as the electorate have done this; therefore, we have the power to dismantle that public value as well.
As we watch groups like AmericansElect, the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, Independents, and other groups grow, know that business-as-usual is coming to a close in our government. The standard operation of the Federal Reserve is on its way out. Anyone who uses demagoguery as a platform is at grave risk for disengagement from their political power base, especially as the broader population learns that although those who speak the loudest get the most attention, the majority actually have the power.
Our founding fathers foretold our current situation time and again. We simply refused to believe them. As an example, recall what Thomas Jefferson observed when he wrote to John Tyler in 1816:
“And I sincerely believe with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies, and the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a grand scale.”
George Washington understood the humanity of the citizens he served. He offered clear guidance that would well serve our elected officials when he said in a letter to the Marquis de Lafayette in 1785,
“Democratical States must always feel before they can see; it is this that makes their Governments slow, but the people will be right at last.”
I take this to mean that with prudent and open hearts, individuals of conscience will find a resolution to all of America’s woes, and that the people, not just the wealthy, will win the day.
Ladies and gentlemen of Congress, your arrogance and insensitivity is not prudence. You refusal to compromise is not an expression of a feeling heart. Our fear to replace you with someone completely different from those who have served in your office in the past is cowardice on our part. We are all to blame.
Today, my fellow citizens, which is, after all, who you are, I claim my culpability and declare to you that I now reclaim my power as a citizen of these United States of America. You no longer have the power to sway my vote without my conscientious consideration. You no longer have the right to make deals in secret without my consent. You will acknowledge the decimation of those peoples who stood in our way to statehood, for it is only in recognizing the injury we caused that we can even begin to ask for forgiveness. You may no longer abscond with funds from my elderly parents and students to pay foreign governments’ bills. You may no longer pepper-spray my sons and daughters who sit on a cement sidewalk at a university without cause. You may no longer send my children to wars around the world without the purpose of defending the lives of our citizens, not our oil or political status. You may no longer borrow against the futures of my grandchildren. You may no longer give money to megacorporations and banks that rightly belong to our fellow countrymen and -women without my considered approval. No longer shall you deny rights to even one member of our population; rights that you have no jurisdiction to govern in the first place. No longer may you allow anyone to be turned away from health care because they cannot afford it. You will ensure that an affordable education for all our young people is available. No longer may you collect your salary while damaging our brother- and sister-Americans; and even then, you may only collect that salary until the end of your term. Today, and not a day later, you will acknowledge the innate freedoms and equality that we Americans were promised at the time of the founding of our country. Remember, you answer to me and to all of us who put you in office. I suspect my voice is simply a reflection of millions of voices across the country.
From this day forward, we decide how our country runs. You will do our bidding, and not the bidding of corporations or small, monied enclaves of power who insist on stoking the conflagration that has become our American lives. You are put on notice that effective today, you are accountable down to the penny for our money, because, after all, it is our money. The walls of Congress will no longer be an expression of your xenophobia. Not only will those walls be transparent, but metaphorically razed so that we have complete access to everything you know about us and our country.
Your personal lives are yours alone. If you are faithful or unfaithful to your spouse, that is between you and your mate. Whether you are gay or straight, Christian or Buddhist, fat or thin, from the South or the West, these issues are of no concern. Again, your private lives are yours alone. The same is true for us. Anything to do with our personal lives neither requires nor will tolerate governance. You will stay out of our bedrooms, our churches, and our doctor’s offices. As such, we will also not consider those issues when it comes time for your election. There is room for all of us in our country, not only to be tolerated, but to be celebrated.
I hope you have enjoyed your tenure under the old administration; however, this is a new day. Everyone from our local dog catcher to our President of the United States is now on notice: The People rule America. Anyone who works with a different understanding than that will be removed from office immediately. If you didn’t like Occupy Wall Street, you will certainly loathe Occupy America! Only those who understand compromise and collegiality shall inhabit these hallowed halls from now on.
We will return to “E pluribus unum,” or “Out of many, one,” as our national motto. “In God we Trust,” is exclusive of those who do not believe in a monotheistic god, and is inconsistent with the separation of church and state. Remember, not one person shall be excluded from our system. With this mutual understanding in place, let us now begin a new day in camaraderie, equal citizenship, and a vision toward tomorrow as a unified country. Nothing less will be tolerated.
Thank you for your time and attention.
President Barack Obama was elected by a mandate by the people of the United States of America in November 2008. Clearly, people were ready for the changes Obama assessed the country needed. Now, we’re complaining.
I had a family member once upon a time that, no matter what happened, she would complain. If she were to receive a million dollars, she would complain about the taxes. If she were to wake up one morning thirty pounds lighter, she would complain that she had nothing to wear. We have become a country of that same person.
Change is painful. Change is scary. Change, for America and Americans, is necessary.
When will we get it through our short-sighted, fear-riddled brains that what we’ve been doing for the last several decades is not working and we must fix it. The economy is in the gutter, our health care is suffering because of the insurance companies’ insistence on higher and higher premuims nearly no one can afford, and our culture is becoming more violent and full of crime. What will it take for us to dig in, in the way our forefathers and foremothers did to elevate themselves out of the Great Depression? Where is our work ethic? Where is our warrior spirit?
There is no dirt under the fingernails of those who are doing the complaining because they want everything handed to them without doing the work. Is that who we’ve become? That is not the energy that built our country in the first place.
It’s time for us to understand that nothing in the world is going to change the fact that we have to rework our economy, our health care system, our criminal justice system, our sense of unified culture, and our access to the entire American dream, no matter what labels others give us, if we want the changes we voted for a mere ten months ago.
Already, we’ve seen our place of respect in the world rise to levels we haven’t seen in at least nine years. We’ve seen white collar criminals going to jail for duping the American public. We have been exposed to truths about which we had suspected for many years about our government. These are all good things. These are the events that will transport us farther toward our goal for an open government, a new vision, and unified action.
Oakland Raiders fans have the right idea. No matter what their team is doing, they stand behind the organization. They disagree. They get angry. They hope for better. Ultimately, however, they remain part of the Raider Nation. When a new leader comes aboard, they always have hope for a brighter future. Perhaps, as Americans, we should stand behind our Red, White, and Blue, the same way Raider fans stand behind their Silver and Black.
Take a deep breath, America, hike up your collective skirts, and get ready for the long road ahead of us in correcting the errors of our past. President Barack Obama can, and will, get us there. I know it. The challenge is that he cannot do it alone.
He will require our help. We must raise our voices in support and unity. We must challenge what we think is wrong in a dignified and respectful way. We must never let our drama overshadow our need to change.
Change is not coming. Change is here.
It sounds so corny when I say it out loud, quite honestly. “I love the United States of America.” The reflection in the mirror I half-expect to see as I walk past as I speak these words is my rotund countenance draped in stars and stripes. That’s how silly it sounds to me to say it… at first.
Then, as I mull the phrase over in my head, I contemplate a few things that soften my attitude about this compilation of words.
First, I think about my Dad. (I always capitalize the word, “Dad,” when I refer to my father, whether it’s grammatically correct or not). My father fought in World War II. He was a decorated Pharmacist Mate. He served in both the Mediterranean and Asian theaters. He was a hero. Although he rarely spoke about his time in the Navy, I was always in awe that he fought the enemy and through his efforts, helped win the war. He fought for the freedoms that I have today. He, along with all the men and women who so valiantly served our country over the last two hundred-plus years, made a difference to us. I never forget that. I suppose that’s why, when I hear the National Anthem, I still get choked up. It happens every single time.
Second, I wonder where else on Earth I could walk down the street with the fearlessness I do. As a gay man, a Latino man, an older man, a man of lower-moderate socio-economic status, I am greeted warmly, loved openly, and respected for who I am, with all the diversity I embody. There are laws that protect me. I am, relatively speaking, safe.
Third, I can write to the President of the United States of America and say exactly what is on my mind. Because I have no desire to threaten anyone, I’m secure in the knowledge that my words count just as much as anyone else’s. It’s a sweet knowledge I carry inside my heart about my place here in the good ole U.S. of A.
I get angry, sometimes, at our legislators and our judges. I am often frustrated by our media services. The cost of things is abominable and the challenges to acquire health care for many is untenable. “Skinny people are too thin. Fat people are too fat.” Everyone has an opinion about everything.
We are, thankfully, able to express our opinions as freely as we belch. Unfortunately, some of our opinions are worth about the same thing. At least, we are able to send our thoughts out as easily as we throw a frisbee at a Fourth of July picnic.
We have had presidents, from Washington to Obama, that are nearly as diverse in thought and history as those of us in our neighborhoods. There were builders, deceivers, heroes and scoundrals, activitists and do-nothings. They were Americans.
Today, on this Fourth of July, 2009, I am not a hyphenate-American. I am simply, joyfully, and proudly an American.
So, as corny as it may sound, I will reiterate my feeling that I love the United States of America. God (or whomever you choose to believe in, if anyone) bless America!
I just heard a video poem from a young woman on her roof about the slaughter taking place in Iran. It broke my heart. It made me think.
To think that in 2009, our world children must see their peers shed their blood or lives for the right to have a voice in their own country.
To think that in 2009, our world children are dying because they fear that being considered gay is so shameful that it is better to die than be perceived in that light.
To think that in 2009, our world children must die because they haven’t received the simple netting necessary to keep away malaria.
To think that in 2009, our world children must die because there is a two child limit in some places on the planet.
To think that in 2009, our world children must die because of such pervasive overcrowding or inadequate funding, they haven’t enough to eat or adequate medical care.
To think that in 2009, our world children must die because criminals are so bent on making money they will sacrifice our little ones to attain it, while the government does so little.
To think that in 2009, our world children are allowed to witness murder and sexual content in their games and television, yet the same parents who permit that do not talk to them about their own spirituality, whatever it may be.
To think that in 2009, our world children are dying all over the world for choices we, as adults, have made.
To think that in 2009, our world children have not learned that their dreams really can come true because we, the current decisionmakers, have not facilitated the manifestation of those dreams.