Friday, July 04, 2008

early july, 2008

"Oh beautiful, for heroes proved,
In liberating strife,
Who more than self, their country loved,
And mercy more than life,
America, America, may God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness
And ev'ry gain devine."

ray charles didn't write "america the beautiful," but he sang it like he owned it.

you can hear the insistent pride, and the certainty that whatever course this country set upon, it would be the right one, and it would be achieved.

these days, however, that certainty has been replaced by something else. something furtive and worrisome and pervasive.

even if you don't yet feel it in your bones, you get a sense of it in polls from across the country. americans say we're on the wrong track or our government is screwed up, or that the founding fathers would be royally PO'd at what we've done to their creation.

if you read the declaration of independence (have you read it? recently?), you may be surprised to find its noble passages comprise a laundry list of complaints. history has elevated those boys to near-mythological status, but the reality (no less impressive) is that they were just tired of being pushed around by the brits.

what might the franklins and jeffersons and washingtons have to say about a different government, say that of today's united states?

how would they view the activities of this country's 43rd president? would they say, "heck of a job, 43! just the way we drew it up!" or would they ask, "what the fuck is going on here, and why are you people just standing around doing nothing?"

there's an army reserve base not too far from our house. every so often i drive by the military cemetery there, with its quiet, uniform rows of white headstones. i wonder what those who fought and died in previous american wars would think of the current conflict in iraq. would they think, "yes, this is a just cause, for which we would lay down our lives."

or would they say, "hang on a minute, this isn't right. america doesn't fight pre-emptive wars. we don't sacrifice blood for oil. we don't torture. and we sure as hell don't take our eye off the ball while the real bad guys get away."

America! America!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

The line must be drawn here. This far, no further.

"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..."

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