Celebrating Something

A collection of quotes about America at 238:

We start out with the original:

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.” – Thomas Jefferson, et. al. July 4, 1776.

And perhaps the greatest rebuke of that, some 180 years later:

“In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.” Martin Luther King, August 29, 1963.

And this, from a fictional News Anchor:

” And yeah, you… sorority girl. Just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there are some things you should know, and one of them is: There is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies. None of this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but you, nonetheless, are without a doubt a member of the WORST-period-GENERATION-period-EVER-period, so when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about! Yosemite?
Will McAvoy: [pause] We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons, we passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn’t belittle it; it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t scare so easy. We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.
Will McAvoy: [to moderator] Enough?  – Jeff Daniels, “The Newsroom,” HBO.

Another quote, from another fictional character:

For the last couple of months, Senator Rumson has suggested that being president of this country was, to a certain extent, about character, and although I have not been willing to engage in his attacks on me, I’ve been here three years and three days, and I can tell you without hesitation: Being President of this country is entirely about character. For the record: yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. But the more important question is why aren’t you, Bob? Now, this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question: Why would a senator, his party’s most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the Constitution? If you can answer that question, folks, then you’re smarter than I am, because I didn’t understand it until a few hours ago. America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free”. I’ve known Bob Rumson for years, and I’ve been operating under the assumption that the reason Bob devotes so much time and energy to shouting at the rain was that he simply didn’t get it. Well, I was wrong. Bob’s problem isn’t that he doesn’t get it. Bob’s problem is that he can’t sell it! We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character. And wave an old photo of the President’s girlfriend and you scream about patriotism and you tell them, she’s to blame for their lot in life, and you go on television and you call her a whore. Sydney Ellen Wade has done nothing to you, Bob. She has done nothing but put herself through school, represent the interests of public school teachers, and lobby for the safety of our natural resources. You want a character debate, Bob? You better stick with me, ’cause Sydney Ellen Wade is way out of your league.

[pauses]

I’ve loved two women in my life. I lost one to cancer, and I lost the other ’cause I was so busy keeping my job I forgot to do my job. Well, that ends right now. Tomorrow morning, the White House is sending a bill to Congress for its consideration. It’s White House Resolution 455, an energy bill requiring a 20 percent reduction of the emission of fossil fuels over the next ten years. It is by far the most aggressive stride ever taken in the fight to reverse the effects of global warming. The other piece of legislation is the crime bill. As of today, it no longer exists. I’m throwing it out. I’m throwing it out writing a law that makes sense. You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and handguns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door to door if I have to, but I’m gonna convince Americans that I’m right, and I’m gonna get the guns. We’ve got serious problems, and we need serious people, and if you want to talk about character, Bob, you’d better come at me with more than a burning flag and a membership card. If you want to talk about character and American values, fine. Just tell me where and when, and I’ll show up. This is a time for serious people, Bob, and your fifteen minutes are up. My name is Andrew Shepherd, and I *am* the President.” Michael Douglas, “The American President, 1995.

Now, for some real people, including me…

“238 years later, that document and the one written 12 years later, both are fraying at the edges. I have an ancestor who has his name on that Declaration and he, along with Adams, Jefferson, Franklin and Hancock, would be appalled at the bastardization of their words. Our favorite craft company took out full-page ads in most major newspapers today, extolling the words of the Founders. Actually it was more like distorting.

I’m sure the Sovereign Citizens, (aren’t we all “sovereign” to this nation?) Tea Party and the “real” people behind the scenes are crowing about this, but I think their time is just about up. For those who scream about wanting “their” country back are increasingly becoming more aware that narrative won’t work as long as those in the course of human events see these people as nothing more than armchair patriots who purport to love a country that sees right through their righteous indignation for nothing more than a knee-jerk, childish reaction to the continual evolution and changes they don’t like. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “the arc of history is long and bends invariably towards justice.” But, as we have seen, justice takes some disconcerting twists and turns, none more since December of 2000 and culminating with the decisions made by the five men cabal masquerading as Supreme Court Justices.

The pursuit still continues. No one said it would be easy and we are still trying to get a “more perfect Union.” We have come to this crossroads and neither way looks smooth, but if we don’t try, surely we will become a new version of Yugoslavia.” July 4th, 2014, The Esquire Blog, with Charles P. Pierce.

“True patriotism isn’t simply about securing our borders from outsiders. It’s about coming together for the common good. True patriotism requires taking on a fair share of the burdens of keeping America going, not finding tax loopholes and squirreling money abroad. It’s about preserving and protecting our democracy, not inundating it with big money or paralyzing it with partisanship. True patriots don’t hate the government of the United States. They’re proud of it. Generations of Americans have risked their lives to preserve it. They may not like everything it does, and they justifiably worry when special interests gain too much power over it. But true patriots work to improve the government, not destroy it. And they don’t pander to divisiveness; they don’t fuel racist or religious or ethnic divides; they aren’t homophobic or sexist. To the contrary: True patriots seek to confirm and strengthen the “we” in “we the people of the United States.” – Robert Reich, former Treasury Secretary under President Clinton, July 4, 2014. (Thanks Linda Andress for posting this)

” We live in a time in America where an entire political party – a whole political movement – believes that “freedom” is for those who can afford it but have the freedom to not pay a fair tax on their income or wealth. But that same movement does not think the same kind of freedom is for those who are poor or hungry or sick or old or infirm or without a job.

They believe freedom is for those who walk down the street with a loaded gun but not for those who walk down the street armed only with a bag of candy.

They believe that freedom is for those who demand all war all the time but not for those who shout “Enough!” because we have no right to march around the world imposing our will on the unwilling.

They believe that freedom is for those who have a “traditional” family and attend the correct church but not for those who want to spend their life with someone who has all of the same sexy parts, or who not only do not attend the correct church but don’t attend any house of worship because they can’t accept the notion of relying on an imaginary friend in the sky.

They have distorted and perverted the meaning of freedom, using it because they want to exclude many rather than include all. Until that changes, none of us will be free and nothing will really be self-evident.” Charley James, The Politics Blog, Esquire, July 4, 2014.

And last, but not least, the sage of the Plains, Barry Friedman, with the last words on this:

“There is a narrative problem in this country, especially on holidays such as this. Those on the Right see a country unrecognizable to the rest of us; it celebrates a memory, a hyperbole really. To them, the United States is full of tough, gruff men in boots and well-behaved women with retarded libidos–the men screaming about freedom, the women nodding reassuringly. The Right doesn’t acknowledge a government that built roads and schools and lifted a generation of seniors out of poverty and prevented little children from dying from mad cow disease at Steak and Shake because some bureaucrat found bad meat. The Right defines itself (and its schema for America) by Allen West, not Alan Grayson; Sarah Palin, not Sarah Silverman. All religions are welcome, they will tell you (well, maybe not all), but all except Christians are guests and should stay off the good furniture and not make a fuss if there’s a manger at City Hall. They talk of American greatness and freedom and vision and offer up Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A and guns and fat ranchers and Gadsden flags. Ben Carson, a black man, is invited to speak at their conventions, so why are we still bitching about equality?

All is good. Move on.

To win the future–hell, to have one–we not only have to beat back the worst instincts of those yelping incessantly in bumper-sticker sophistication that we are increasingly told to be proud of–entitled racism, sexism, elitism, jingoism, religious certainty–we also have to take back the story and the country we remember.” – July 4, 2014.

 

 

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