Page Two

An oceanside contemplation of the Declaration of Independence

Page Two
It is late evening on the West Coast, where I'm sitting on the small porch of a beach house watching the waves leisurely roll in, glowing phosphorescent as they break, thin lines of electric light decorating the seas. My wife and son are staying at a nearby hotel with other friends. I'm in the house with an actor friend but no one else. He has lit candles and is playing the most eccentric funk, soul, jazz, and R&B, as well as music that combines all those. He is DJ-ing to the clouds, the surf, the crash of breaking waves, the dark of the night.

The music accentuates the oddness of the evening. It is as though we are isolated, the only two alive in a land torn up and destroyed. I'm trying to stay in the moment and not think. Not even a little. But I can't help myself.

We live in a time when anger, hatred, and self-righteous viciousness have replaced compromise and trust. Those most insistent on importing "democracy" to Iraq are absolutely the least respectful of the constitutional republic in which we live. While they should be militant to an extreme to protect and promote the rights of those with whom they disagree, instead they just want to shut them up. They don't want dialogue or disagreement – they want aggressively nationalist, lock-step government. Meanwhile, in blocking Bush's appointments, the Democrats are not obstructionist but are fulfilling their obligations as constitutional patriots.

Those who hate the United States of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence the most are those who celebrate the piece of land upon which we happen to live as the greatest nation of all time.

So many are strutting around ranting, running for office by demonizing their neighbors, calling talk shows and cackling, writing letters insisting that they are true American patriots.

I say this to those of you who claim this is a country of drawn boundaries more than blood-tested principles; to those who decry immigrants while ignoring their own family histories; to those who trivialize history when it contradicts what they believe but are narrow-focused in championing meaningless parts of it to prove their points; to those who dismiss the impact of slavery and of institutionalized racism but consider the less than half-century-old civil rights legislation as achieving a done deal; to those who embrace fear and denounce challenge; to those who cling to a ridiculously unreal, ideologically imagined past as an anchor against the uncertainty of the future – to all of those I say, you are not even close to patriots but are traitors to the ideas and intent of this country.

I denounce you. I denounce those who insist that religion trumps rights, that God favors certain candidates and certain parties over others, those who, clinging to fear, are willing to abandon all the sacrifices made for the humanist and democratic ideas upon which this country is founded. I say to those who demagogue for political gain, those who lie or mislead not to serve their country and all their fellow citizens but a few leaders and one party, you are not patriots but fearmongers; you are not champions but the most corrupt of moral cowards. Those shouting patriotism the loudest are respecting it the least; those claiming to be most in love with this country love it not at all.

Watching the unending, timeless majesty of the ocean, enhanced by the brilliance of the night, I find some peace. I again embrace those words that, no matter what the original intention, have to include all sexes, all races, and all religions (including atheists, deists, pagans, and those simply not interested), that have to include gay, straight, bi, and disinterested, rich, poor, and middle-class, educated and uneducated. Against that ocean, during that night, by the light of candles and an unquenchable love of this country, I again thought of the power of the statement. It does not promise ease or simplicity, certainty or consistency, but freedom. It guarantees this by the simple yet endlessly complex assertion that we are all equal and that none are more equal than others no matter who they are or what they believe:

"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."

Think about that statement because despite the fear, the lies, the dishonesty, the manipulation, the demagoguery it presents the most logical way for us to live together and govern ourselves: by each and everyone of us doing unto others as we would have done unto us. Not doing unto others as we think should be done to them, or as we believe they needed done unto them, or as in the name of patriotism needs to be done for them, but as we would have done unto us. It is that simple and that impossible. Not only our future but the future of this country, of mankind, and the world all depend on our getting it right. Sadly, so terribly sadly, our country is now one of the leaders at getting it all wrong. This is the greatest tragedy of our time and one we must fight every day in every democratic way. end story

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