Friday, July 4, 2008
A Declaration in Tatters
It’s the Fourth of July.
As a lifelong student of American history, I consider this as one of the calendar’s great days. It celebrates the assembly of a group of profound thinkers who penned brilliant words that inspired a war that, five years later, turned a handful of Old World colonies into a vibrant new nation.
At the heart of the new nation were two philosophies: government by democracy, and economics by capitalism.
Today, in that nation, both democracy and capitalism are in serious trouble.
Democracy depends on an intelligent and informed electorate. If the voters are ignorant—unaware that much of what they are told about and by their government rests on lies and falsehoods—they cannot vote with the insight democracy demands. If their elected representatives do not represent them, but instead represent entities who have contributed heavily to electoral campaigns, then the very spirit of democracy is not served.
Today the nation is involved in a horrific and senseless war, and it was launched on lies. The nation is slaughtering innocent people, torturing many others and spying on its own citizens. Our news people—so vital to an informed electorate—are restrained from routinely exposing these wrongs by the huge corporations that employ them. We watch as “news” is trivialized into celebrity-watching and “reality TV” that has no basis in any reality we would want to be part of.
Capitalism is dependent on growth. We see our economic and governmental leaders interpreting it as “growth at any cost.” Countless people are purchasing countless things large and small without the money to do so. Citizens and government alike are so over-extended with credit that if our creditors were to call in the loans, citizens and government alike would be immediately and irreversibly bankrupt.
We cannot blame those founders who argued, compromised and finally reached agreement in Philadelphia in 1776. We have read their thoughts on the need for an informed electorate, for separation of church and state, for civil liberties, for personal privacy, for an honorable presence in the world. And our so-called leaders — politicians and corporations — have decided they know better. They have shredded the spirit of the Declaration of Independence and are doing great damage to the Constitution.
We have one hope.
This is election year.
We can try our best to identify the candidates who are closest in spirit, philosophy and integrity to those great men in Philadelphia and then vote for those candidates … and hope the voting machines aren’t rigged.