Independent and Equal

“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.”

Sometimes it becomes necessary to speak out and declare yourself independent and equal. The founding fathers of the United States of America started their unanimous declaration with that idea on this day in 1776.

They further declared that everyone was equal. They said “men” in the text of their declaration, but they meant everyone. Even if they didn’t know it at the time the truth that they held to be self-evident was that every man and woman, of every race and color, of every creed and origin, deserved the unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of their own happiness. And when a government fails to deliver upon that promise, they said– when it becomes destructive to these ends – it should be altered or abolished.

Today in America we are among the freest people in the world. Today in America we are among the most unequal people in the world. Both statements are completely true despite their apparent juxtaposition.

We have suffered a long train of abuses. Those abuses have come in the form of a government serving the will of the plutocracy over the good of the people. Wages have stagnated for the middle and lower classes while wealth has accumulated in the hands of fewer and fewer. Despotism can take many forms, often the form of a single cult of personality. But it can also take the form of an elite class absorbing more and more of the gains of society while allowing less to the citizenry “that which is wholesome and necessary for the public good.”

Today is an important day. A constitutional republic with aspirations of democracy still stands, 243 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It has not been an easy road. For nearly 60% of our existence as a nation women could not vote. Black people were not considered equal to white ones until less than 60 years ago. In our pursuit of growth we all but wiped out the indigenous people of America.

And today we face great crises, unlike any before. The climate is changing. The threat of nuclear annihilation is ever-present. Mismanaged globalization, inequality, and the whims of dictators around the world create mass migration. In our misunderstanding of the causes of those migrations and in our unreasoned fear we clamor for walls to protect us from those who mean us no harm. All the while those who do mean us harm – the corporations and the plutocrats who seek nothing but personal gain at the expense of all others – are allowed to continue their ravages unabated. In fact, encouraged. They look like us, are elected by us, say the things we want to hear, but work only for themselves. They are the princes and tyrants unfit to rule a free people.

We have much to do in the years to come. We have failing infrastructure and corrupted voting. We have among the nations of the world perhaps the greatest wealth, but we provide for our people the least.

This is not the time to abolish, far from that. But this is the time to alter. In America today we do not cater to a single despot but to many; to those with the money and the power to game the system. We have in our power, as a constitutional republic, the means to alter those rules for the good of the people. The people. That was the promise of this day nearly two and a half centuries ago. We failed to achieve the promise written in the document we revere today, but we have made progress. We can progress still.

I love this country. As I have said before I can both love America and disagree with it when I think it is wrong. That, above all, is the intent of the Declaration of Independence. Not to write down words, forge a nation, and stop, but to create a nation for the people that evolves into something ever greater than it is today. Today it is a powerful war machine with great economic inequality. But it also among the freest nations in the land with the most diverse of populations. We have much to be proud of, but we can be prouder still as we create a land of greater equality, greater freedom, greater distribution, and a greater understanding that our differences are sublime.

On this day cherish all the good that has come since the birth of this nation, but remember all the mistakes, as well. Know what we have achieved but know as well what we should have done better and what we must do better tomorrow.

For the people, America.

All of them.

41 thoughts on “Independent and Equal

  1. Nationalism: good or bad?
    I wonder if the sentiment that: “My country is better than yours.” (for that’s really what nationalism comes down to) hasn’t lost its purpose in today’s pan-global need for human cooperation.
    Do competitions like the World Cup or the Olympics really help engender a more cohesive species? Or do they raise artificial boundaries between peoples? Surely the competitors generally treat each other as equals. But the nations that sponsor them?
    We all (probably) realize that celebrating independence from those awful Brits is no longer the purpose of the Fourth. Commemorating Constitutional freedoms more the theme. Still, “Independence” seems the wrong sentiment these days. Perhaps we need an “Interdependance” day to call-out how the world’s people should really see themselves.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think that’s a brilliant suggestion, Anomy! I, too, wonder about the relevance of the inter-nation conflicts you bring up, and the nationalistic sentiment they produce. I would say the spirit of what you propose is the future to which we aspire. Not sure the majority of the populace is there yet but we can certainly start to inject that into the dialogue when discussing as such! “Go USA, but may the best team win and congrats to all the competitors involved!” ✊🏼

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Tribalism has benefited humanity throughout its existence. Them vs. Us. Unfortunately, that sentiment is now counterproductive, yet is part of our DNA.
        As we’ve discussed before, humanity needs an Xtra-species “them” to force us to come together as a truly united “we,” as in We the People.
        Yet, we know that that will never happen.
        I’m reminded of the dodos in “Ice Age” the movie: “Doom on you, doom on you.” Oh, wait, doom on you means doom on me, too. Crap!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hahaha! The crazy thing is we DO face an existential threat that dooms us all and we STILL can’t come together to combat it. And I don’t even have a snappy optimistic sentence to follow that up! 😲

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Existential threat? Are you referring to global warming? (Or the asshat in the Whitehouse?) Sure, the Holocene’s over, and we’re prolly heading into another PETM. But, the Paleocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum was a great time for lots of creatures. Rats, humans and cockroaches will always survive — provided Apophos doesn’t get nudged and slam into, oh, Mt. Erebus, Antarctica. “Darkness” would most certainly descend on all species, then.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. People often mistake my criticisms, or my vitriol towards Trump or defense of folks like Colin Kaepernick, as anti-American rhetoric. Far from it. But neither am I blindly patriotic thinking my nation is unerring or the only great place on earth. We all have to be able to make distinctions, to love but also to expect better. I want it to be the greatest nation in the world, but to be so we have to do better for those that actually make up the nation.

      Thank you for reading and for the response, Kim! ❤️ Happy 5th!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think everyone needs to put in an effort to do just that, “better.” I’ll never agree with your stance on Kaepernick, but you have the freedom to do that. (Says America.) As he has the freedom, (says America) while being paid, to play a game… with TV cameras on him, knowing children are watching him and have NO understanding of his ‘personal crusade’ … why he picked this way to call attention to his concerns? Cameras, an honored tradition… sure! That’ll cause some attention, not the best for getting your original message out… I just think it was a really BAD choice. That’s all. I would’ve listened to him, if he cared to publicly speak. We hero worship our athletes! I just didn’t appreciate his approach. Which I believe is MY right. (Says America). I don’t think you are spewing anti-American rhetoric, Tom. I just believe that not all Americans, well… let’s remember we all mature at different rates and social media, for some, is unhealthy. (True journalism is a dinosaur, which is sad.) Tom… you pull me in to these rambling comments every time!!! Argh. Waiting for your response… this is not a challenge! 😊😉💫

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Haha! I don’t know, Kim, “never” is an awfully confining word. Let’s see what we can do about it. 😉

        I agree with you that Colin Kaepernick and the others are indeed role models; by virtue of the game they play and the attention they get they must be. In that vein, there are a lot worse folks around the league hurting the brand (we’ve seen racism, domestic abuse, substance abuse, violence, etc, from a lot of folks still playing the game, getting a pass, so to speak, for their abuses of their roles). Kaepernick is a much better role model than those others. He says, by his actions, look: you don’t have to conform or allow perceived injustice to go unchallenged. This is America. This is a free country. Take up the cause when you believe strongly enough; live what you believe. That’s a good role model. In no way, during his protests, was he disrespectful. Taking a knee is not spitting on or burning a flag, and he made it very clear this was not about the folks in the military, whom he has a great respect for.

        In fact, if you remember, his protest didn’t even start as publicity. When the anthem came on he quietly took a seat and did his own thing (kind of like what I do at weddings and funerals when we all “bow our heads to pray). He did that for a while, actually, until the media caught sight of it. At that point, when they asked, he gave his reason why. The nation was reeling from report after report of police brutality, an unequal amount of that directed against people of color. The nominee for president in the Republican party openly used race in his platform to run, notably denigrating brown people to the south. Kaerpernick’s words escape me (he’s not a great communicator) but went something like this: I could not stand for the anthem in a country that ignores the injustices against people of color. And remember, it was only after a veteran friend of his told him that kneeling would be a compromise protest, a way to respect the flag and the soldiers who have fought and died for the country, did he change his posture. Out of respect, for the military, he kneeled before the flag (but still got his message across about injustice). For that, he has been unjustly vilified.

        I support his right to do that,your right to disagree about it (just as I disagree with Kaep over the Betsy Ross thing), and even an NFL team’s right to want to avoid the controversy by signing him. I think he got hosed by the league over this but, again, I get it.

        Sorry to pull you in but, as you can see, I believe very strongly in the importance of debate over the issues, and even more strongly in mutual respect. ❤️ Good talk!


    1. I have the sinking feeling we’ll never see the leaders of the world stop selling crap, so your pessimism is both noted and understood. But I believe we can (and most likely will) build a better world in time, if not a perfect one. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I applaud this post Tom. Bravo. I began reading this with the expectation that my conservative sensibilities would be under attack ( of course I would still read and respect your thoughts but my ass might pucker a bit) but instead you completely nailed in a fair and balanced way exactly what is wrong, and right with this great land.
    You are a brilliant writer and an exemplary human being my friend

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Bill. 😊 You are the second to mention that you started leery but ended satisfied by the text. I certainly do not think that the conservative mind is one to tear down any more than the liberal one; those who come from good places seeking good things are to be revered. It is when either use their position to demean the other that I get dismayed, and we see that all too often today.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Tom, I’ve been keeping up with your blog and am always happy to read a post from you! So keep ’em coming brother! As you know with my writing goal (which is also happens smack in the middle of one of the busiest, most demanding periods of my life!), I often don’t have the stamina to comment. But since a few months have passed without writing to you, I wanted to comment to at least one post, and this is the one I chose because it moved me especially. It wonderfully encapsulates the current state of the country we both love immensely, the same country that also frustrates us immensely.

    I have a lot of conflicting thoughts circulating in my spinning head, most of them are threaded to my aching heart which continuously grieves for all those broken promises, missed opportunities, and looming 2020 election (impending doom? I hope not). America has always been an exception, a rarity, a conundrum to the world: A land of immigrants, multitudes of ethnicities, a relatively young society in a “new” world particularly obsessed with individual freedom. These are all aspects that make the world to look to the US for inspiration. Then there is the capitalism gone awry, the ardent nationalism, the archaic laws, the stagnation of desperately needed reforms that make the country (for certain people) the complete opposite of what it promises to be.

    It might be strange coming from me, but I feel lost with all the partisan drama and fear-mongering especially from progressives and liberals. Even though I absolutely agree that Trump is a threat to democracy, the whole country and the world. The country can only move forward united. I hope with all my heart that a strong democratic candidate will emerge, one that can focus our attention and significant resources on the very best things this country is and can be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello MP! So happy to see you, glad you’re doing well (if, ever so slightly, exasperated 😉 )! I happen to agree with you that even though Donald Trump is at the very least unworthy of his position the opposition often overplays their overall disdain in return. I have been guilty of that myself, as a matter of fact. For a while I simply bashed him, full of anger that I knew better than to express. He is a petulant child, and I am better than that. But I understand the frustration.

      I also understand the frustration that his supporters have. Many of them, not all but many, fear the dying of their sacred majority and possibly even their long-held beliefs. Those beliefs might include the idea that America, particularly white America, is exceptional in the world. Or that God himself has chosen this country to be great and that “infidels” will water that down. They might even hold to the idea that we are meant to be “pure” in some sense. Others simply hold to long-held classic, conservative beliefs as taught them by Ronald Reagan and Rush Limbaugh: abortion is murder, guns make America great, the flag is a holy symbol, etc. They see that getting watered down, as well.

      But the backlash, as I said, is overplayed. Donald Trump is a corrupt and self-serving man, that is well-documented and established. In a sense, then, he is the classic definition of an evil man. But this does not make the bulk of his followers evil by association, simply adhering to their own beliefs and using this autocratic person’s drive and energy to hold to their cause. I know people who have disavowed Donald Trump and his viscous (and yes, evil) nature in the past, only to defend him now. You probably know some of them, too.

      Adherents to a cause will make any excuse to advance or sustain their cause, even support the face of evil. We have seen that from ideologies on both sides.

      We will need a strong Democratic leader to emerge in this cycle if we are to reestablish the norms we have lost, the norms that are necessary to sustain democracy. I say this leader will need to be a Democrat because there are no Republican challengers to this corruption of state. If the roles were reversed and, say, Hillary Clinton had won and went down this path of destroying democratic norms I would be saying the reverse. The party of the next leader does not matter so much as their allegiance to democracy. Donald Trump has no such allegiance.

      Thank you again for stopping by, MP! I have missed you and your heart and perspective immensely! Be well, and keep writing. Hard work does indeed pay off!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love what you wrote Tom! (as always!) You have a firm grip of the conservative mindset, which in itself is not evil, it could rightly balance out the more chaotic forces of change, that is if it had not entwined itself with corruption, racism and bigotry. It’s this deeply enmeshed rot that has been festering since the end of slavery. How do we extricate if from the body without destroying it? That is the monumental task of the next candidate if they are to win, and I would add, all of us who want to live in a better world as well.

        Liked by 1 person

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