Michael: A Happy 5th of July to YouBeing a curmudgeon, I can’t allow people to have fun without being compelled to point out that they are dancing in a graveyard. Such is how I felt this 4th of July. Don’t get me wrong, I love Independence Day; but that is exactly why I am troubled.
Independence Day, commemorating the ratification of the Declaration of Independence, is by its nature a highly political holiday. From its inception, the 4th has been used to make political statements. From the hacking to bits of a statute of King George to make bullets in revolutionary days, to today’s hometown parades, fireworks, and gales of hot air sweeping down from the nation’s political podiums, the holiday has ever been about democracy at work. And that’s not always pretty. Often overblown with empty rhetoric, made a mockery by bread and circuses spectacles, and always a prime opportunity for jingoes to claim to be more truly American than the other guy, it nevertheless retains a dignity of meaning that no rhetoric can overthrow, if you know where to look.
Even those to whom mainstream America has barred the doors of democracy's temple could always manage to claim the 4th for their own. The Abolitionists remade the holiday into a celebration of the end of slavery when America failed to heed them. Frederick Douglass asked at his alternative Fifth of July celebration held in Rochester, New York, in 1852, “What to the Slave to the Fourth of July?” and answered, “The Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.”
Today's moral battle is over the militarization of American society, and the policy of aggressive nationalism proclaimed by the Bush cabal, and epitomized by the invasion and continued occupation of Iraq. In light of history, it shouldn’t surprise us that each side in this struggle seeks to use the 4th of July for its own political ends.
The Bush Administration took its dog and pony show to West Virginia, as they have on three other Independence Days during George’s reign. George paid homage to the historical roots of the celebration saying, “The revolutionary truths of the Declaration are still at the heart of America: We believe in the dignity and rights of every person. We believe in freedom and equal justice, the rule of law, and a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
These truths are the heart of America, but unfortunately Bush is insensitive to its rhythms. Having denied thousands the right to due process and freedom from torture, and hundreds of thousands more their right to privacy and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, having arbitrarily denied freedom to so many and set up a separate and unequal system of justice to judge them that answers solely to him and the appeal from which is solely his whim, and having spat on the rule of law at the very moment of his ordination, I can only assume that speaking those words burned George’s tongue. I can forgive his speechwriters eliding the words of Lincoln with the principles of the Declaration, but I cannot forgive such a litany of hypocrisy.
Having fully explored hypocrisy, Bush moved on to lies, insinuating, “At this hour, our men and women in uniform are defending America against the threats of the 21st century. The war we are fighting came to our shores on September the 11th, 2001.” George repeated once again the intentional misdirection that we are fighting in Iraq because of 9/11. George’s courtiers will declaim that he means that we only that we must be proactive and ‘fight the terrorists there, so we don’t have to fight them here’, but that’s bullshit. In the ears of any American, the cause of 9/11 is payback for what was done to those 3000 innocents, pure and simple. We’ve exacted as many as 100,000 of Iraq's innocents by now, despite their being no ties between Iraq and 9/11. How many more until we are so bloated with death that we are forced to admit we were deceived and mislead?
Meanwhile across the country, the enemies of George’s glorious little war were holding 4th of July festivities of their own. Bush did not mention how many young American lives had been consumed in his war, but remembering the studiously hidden cost of this war was the heart of a much different 4th in Santa Monica at "Arlington West." While the George’s regime continues to bar the press from photographing the coffins of our fallen soldiers in hopes of concealing the daily cost of his war in the colonies, patriots continue to mourn the fallen as they deserve; publicly, and in open acknowledgement of the lapse of good sense and decency that sent them to die in war that should never have been started.
There may have been speeches at this other Independence Day, I don’t know, none were recorded and trumpeted as press releases. But almost certainly someone was there circulating the Veterans For Peace petition calling for the impeachment of George II. Among tokens of the fallen, the true principles of Independence Day once again found their highest expression. Not dripping from the mouths of self-serving politicians, but burned in the conscience of each patriot, and written in the blood of martyrs. The 4th of July will always remain a day of revolution and human freedom, as intended. But until we have come to our senses as a nation and withdrawn from Iraq, the 4th is for mourning; for celebration, I prefer to take the 5th.