LISTEN, READ, CONSIDER… HOW WE GOT HERE…

July 4th, 2017

No. Really. Reading the whole document, the genesis of who we are, is vital. We did not happen yesterday. We come from events and passions and responses that, unless we fully grasp their significance, will be rendered meaningless by tyrants. Therefore, I give you, our Declaration of Independence:

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 harass 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 benefit 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 British 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.

Share how you feel now, in this moment…

2 Responses to “LISTEN, READ, CONSIDER… HOW WE GOT HERE…”

  1. Jeff Hess says:

    So, today, the 241st anniversary of our declaration of independence, I’ve chosen to only comment on this post; to attempt to read and understand all else today through the lens of this extraordinary and historic—not just for the We The People, the citizens of these United States, but for billions around the globe who yearn for a different world—document.

    I begin this morning with a Guardian Long-Read: What will it take for the US to eradicate racist ideas? by Ibram X Kendi.

    We cannot read our Declaration of Independence with recognizing that the 56 signers of the document were white, wealthy males of English descent; the very model of non-diversity and the opposite of the group of actors gathered in Independence Hall above to read the declaration. I found the selection of the dozen actors—Kathy Bates, Benicio Del Tores, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman (who delivers the introduction), Mel Gibson, Whoopi Goldberg, Graham Greene, Ming-Na, Edward Norton, Winona Ryder, Kevin Spacey and Renee Zellweger—instructive. I found Greene’s reading particularly so:

    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.

    How many of us remember that these 37 words, particularly these three—merciless Indian Savages—appear?

    Kendi writes:

    When will the day arrive when black lives matter to Americans? It depends largely on what anti-racists do—and on the strategies they use to stamp out racist ideas. Racial reformers have customarily requested or demanded that Americans, particularly white Americans, sacrifice their own privileges for the betterment of black people. And yet, this strategy is based on one of the oldest myths of the modern era, a myth continuously produced and reproduced by racists and anti-racists alike: that racism materially benefits the majority of white people, that white people would lose and not gain in the reconstruction of an anti-racist America.

    It has been true that racist policies have benefited white people in general at the expense of black people (and others) in general. That is the story of racism, of unequal opportunity in a nutshell. But it is also true that a society of equal opportunity, without a top 1% hoarding the wealth and power, would actually benefit the vast majority of white people much more than racism does.

    Anti-racists should stop connecting selfishness to racism, and unselfishness to anti-racism. Altruism is wanted, not required. Anti-racists do not have to be altruistic. Anti-racists do not have to be selfless. Anti-racists merely have to have intelligent self-interest, and to stop consuming those racist ideas that have engendered so much unintelligent self-interest over the years. It is in the intelligent self-interest of middle- and upper-income blacks to challenge the racism affecting the black poor, knowing they will not be free of the racism that is slowing their socio-economic rise until poor blacks are free of racism.

    It is in the intelligent self-interest of white Americans to challenge racism, knowing they will not be free of sexism, class bias, homophobia and ethnocentrism until black people are free of racism. The histories of anti-Asian, anti-Native and anti-Latina/o racist ideas; the histories of sexist, elitist, homophobic, and ethnocentric ideas: all sound eerily similar to this history of racist ideas, and feature some of the same defenders of bigotry in America. Supporting these prevailing bigotries is only in the intelligent self-interest of a tiny group of super-rich, Protestant, heterosexual, non-immigrant, white, Anglo-Saxon males. Those are the only people who need to be altruistic in order to be anti-racist. The rest of us merely need to do the intelligent thing for ourselves.

    This is why Black lives matter. Kendi concludes:

    Any effective solution to eradicating American racism must involve Americans committed to anti-racist policies seizing and maintaining power over institutions, neighbourhoods, counties, states, nations – the world. It makes no sense to sit back and put the future in the hands of people committed to racist policies, or people who sail with the wind of self-interest. An anti-racist America can only be guaranteed if principled anti-racists are in power, and then anti-racist policies become the law of the land, and then anti-racist ideas become the common sense of the people, and then the anti-racist common sense of the people holds those anti-racist leaders and policies accountable.

    And that day is sure to come. No power lasts for ever. There will come a time when Americans will realise that the only thing wrong with black people is that they think something is wrong with black people. There will come a time when racist ideas will no longer obstruct us from seeing the complete and utter abnormality of racial disparities.

    There will come a time when we will love humanity, when we will gain the courage to fight for an equitable society for our beloved humanity, knowing, intelligently, that when we fight for humanity, we are fighting for ourselves. There will come a time. Maybe, just maybe, that time is now.

    The time is always now. I am fond of this quote from William James:

    Do not hesitate, seize the earliest opportunity to act on each new resolution. Set about accomplishing your goal with the strongest possible initiative. Pursue your goals daily, and never suffer an exception to occur.

  2. Jeff Hess says:

    Of the 56 rich White Anglo-Saxon males who signed our Declaration of Independence 241 years ago, statistics suggest to us that two of them may have been homosexuals. Closeted, of course, this was the late 18th century, so there can be no doubt that not a single person in the room was concerned with LGBTQ rights even less so than they were willing to discuss slavery.

    Yet, the phrase best known by Americans, and perhaps anyone aware of the text, is this:We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal

    As a nation we have grown to understand men must be expanded: first to include (imperfectly) former slaves and then (again, imperfectly) women. In the late 20th, and now in the early 21st centuries, we are increasingly wrestling with the tolerance, acceptance and celebration of that part of our families and communities that do not conform to the rigid stereotypes imposed by x and y chromosomes.

    Years ago physicist, educator, writer and blogger Mano Singham introduced me to the comedy of Eddie Izzard. Yesterday Mano wrote:

    Eddie Izzard has long been my favorite stand up comedian. I think s/he is positively brilliant. I love the seemingly stream of consciousness patter, the mimicking of conversations, allusions to the Bible and history and popular culture, and the ability to find humor in the most mundane aspects of life.

    Whens Izzard first came out in 1985, s/he described himself as a transvestite but more recently s/he has started using the term transgender and says that he thinks that they are effectively equivalent. Izzard presents as both a man and a woman and the descriptions of self-identity now are complex (on occasion giving a self-description as a ‘straight transgender’ and ‘male lesbian’) and it is not clear what gender pronoun s/he prefers.

    Mano posted two Izzard videos in the piece. The first is a 2015 interview with Brian Rose at London Real. The second is a shorter interview this month with Stephen Colbert in conjunction Izzard’s autobiography Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens.

    There is much in both interviews worthy of your attention, but in the context of today, the Declaration of Independence and the broader issue of LGBTQ rights, I would draw your attention to to exchange beginning at timemark 3:08 regarding non-victim vibes.

    Izzard nails, I think, an important attitude that is much more than just positive self-esteem. Surprisingly, this very idea showed up (so Google tells me) only two days ago on Crossdressers.com where Pat (aka Jennie) wrote:

    Funny how things get synchronous sometimes. I was just idly YouTube-ing (Yes, it’s a word. Now.) and I ran across Eddie Izzard talking about this very thing in his very rambling, stream-of-consciousness Eddie Izzard way.

    I’m particularly taken with his idea of giving out a “non-victim vibe” since I think that’s part of what I do and a large part of why I can do it successfully. I think the majority of people base their behavior based on the cues you give off. They don’t mess with a person who clearly believes they belong where they are, but they pick up on any uncertainty you project. Good safety tip.

    In our national news, can you think of a stronger non-victim vibe than that generated by Kristin Beck Chelsea Manning or Caitlyn Jenner?

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