This winter, however, I spent a week in Philadelphia reacquainting myself with our founding fathers. Yes, I know all of their flaws. Though Benjamin Franklin and a few others were abolitionists, slavery was legal when this nation was founded. I know of the horrible crimes we committed against the Native Americans, the indignity and inhumanity of Jim Crow, the interment of the Japanese, and now the sad reality of American Imperialism throughout the world today.
Despite all the horror in and dark side of our legacy, I have come to think our founding fathers really did give us something remarkable. A Constitutional Democracy, a representative Republic, a system of checks and balances aimed at maximum freedom of the individual and protection of his or her rights.
When I read the Preamble of the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence I am deeply moved by the spirit of freedom. Once again, I am sadly aware of the limited application of freedom in our founders' day and our own. But it is not for nothing that nations the world over, and even oppressed groups here, have appealed to those founding ideals when fighting for their own freedom (just read King's speeches, they are filled with allusions to the founding fathers).
So, despite their many flaws and shortcomings, our founders sought to bring the spirit of freedom into their country, indeed they fought to do so. I have come to believe they were right about this, and that they were right to fight for it. But the battle for our freedom cannot be restricted to rebellion against the British long ago. The Battle for freedom, rights, and democracy is perennial; we must keep up that fight today.
Democracy is currently either dead or in critical condition in the United States. As Bill Moyers notes "Money is chocking Democracy to death." Basically Corporations sponsor - or better buy - our politicians and expect that their interests, not ours, are what the politicians work to protect. They are not let down, our politicians do not work for the people, but for the vested interest - those with the cash.
Corporations own our newspapers and TV news stations, they own our politicians, and our entertainment .. in short, they have bought our government at our expense.
The rallying cry of the Revolutionary War was "no taxation without representation." Once again we are not represented. Our Politicians do not represent us, they represent their corporate sponsors. We the people are a minimal factor in the minds of lawmakers. Laws are passed and enacted for the benefit of multi-national corporations, and we the people are forced to foot the bill for it.
If we would claim our liberty, enjoy our freedom, and have real democracy in our lives, then we must work to end this intolerable situation. We must, like our founders, demand our Independence - not through bloody rebellion this time, but through demanding we are heard. Fighting for Public Schools, Public Television, Public Radio, Public Health Care, and - perhaps most importantly - Public Campaign Financing. Let us reclaim our country from the moneyed interest and let freedom ring again.
In the all too often unread words of Jefferson's Declaration of Independence:
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.
Let us read these words very carefully, and, this July 4th instead of merely getting drunk and hearing that awful Lee Greenwood song, let's start to ask ourselves how we can win our country back.