Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

In 232 years, our beloved America has come a long way. But we still have a long way to go to actually be the country whose ideals are to insure “liberty and justice for all.”

This year, let us pledge ourselves to declare and secure independence from

· our addiction to petrochemicals
· our ongoing practice of state killing
· our willingness to blind ourselves to the practice of torture being carried out in our names with
our tax moneys by those our government employs or hires
· our silent assent to invasions, occupations and covert undermining of nation-states around the
world to advance corporate interests
· our acquiescence to the ongoing failure of the world’s best health care to provide care for
everyone regardless of ability to pay
· our willful ignorance regarding climate change and our own role in that change
· our addictions to the scourge of guns, the instrumentalities of death
· our denial of the failure of our “war on drugs” and the carnage it has caused in our communities
· our fear-driven obsession with imprisoning our fellow citizens that has made us the operators of
the world’s largest gulag system
· our reliance on the corporate monopolies of news media that fail to keep us informed
· our indifference to the declining quality of public education
· our acquiescence to the ongoing invasion of the privacy of our homes and telephone services by
consumer industries
· our demonization of the immigrants who make our unprecedented standard of living possible
· our indifference to our unresolved racism
· our ongoing denial of equality to our LBGT fellow Americans

This year, may freedom – and the social responsibility that ALWAYS accompanies it – truly ring. This year, may we be true to the ideals we say we believe:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
– Emily Lazarus, The New Colossus, inscription on Statue of Liberty

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.
Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence

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.
– James Madison, Preamble, US Constitution

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
– original Pre-1950s Red Scare Pledge of Allegiance

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure…It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
– Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,….

Now, therefore, the General Assembly proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction….

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

- Eleanor Roosevelt, United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

As I was walkin'I saw a sign there
And that sign said no trespassin'
But on the other side It didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!
In the squares of the city
In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief officeI see my people
And some are grumblin'
And some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me.

This land is your land,
This land is my land,
From California
To the New York Island,
From the redwood forest,
To the Gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

- Woody Guthrie, This Land is My Land

This year, may we be the America we say we are.

Happy Independence Day!

The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Instructor: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law
University of Central Florida, Orlando

If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.

Most things of value do not lend themselves to production in sound bytes

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