Sunday, July 04, 2004

Clip Show for Freedom!

Happy Fourth of July. Unfortunately my turntable has been busted for years so I can't favor Prospect Heights with the X classic of the same name, but I can offer some of the best readings I've seen for the occasion.

Here's a great editorial from today's New York Times, on the uneasy fit between this day when we celebrate our greatest American ideals, and the administration now in power that seems so intent on making a travesty of those ideals:

This nation was founded upon a statement of principles, the Declaration of Independence, that represents a striving after philosophical perfection, a standard of freedom that our lives and institutions can rarely live up to. Against that lofty standard, our actual history all too often looks like a sprawling, brawling free-for-all that uses the high language of our principles as a kind of camouflage for what the market will bear.

Filmmaker and right-wing Enemy No. 1 Michael Moore had a surprisingly thoughtful and even touching op-ed in today's LA Times that's worth a read as well:

...For too long now we have abandoned our flag to those who see it as a symbol of war and dominance, as a way to crush dissent at home. Flags are flying from the back of SUVs, rising high above car dealerships, plastering the windows of businesses and adorning paper bags from fast-food restaurants. But these flags are intended to send a message: "You're either with us or you're against us," "Bring it on!" or "Watch what you say, watch what you do."

Those who absconded with our flag now use it as a weapon against those who question America's course. They remind me of that famous 1976 photo of an anti-busing demonstrator in Boston thrusting a large American flag on a pole into the stomach of the first black man he encountered. These so-called patriots hold the flag tightly in their grip and, in a threatening pose, demand that no one ask questions. Those who speak out find themselves shunned at work, harassed at school, booed off Oscar stages. The flag has become a muzzle, a piece of cloth stuffed into the mouths of those who dare to ask questions.

I think it's time for those of us who love this country — and everything it should stand for — to reclaim our flag from those who would use it to crush rights and freedoms, both here at home and overseas. We need to redefine what it means to be a proud American.

And finally, let's go old school and remember the last written words of Thomas Jefferson, penned shortly before his death 178 years ago today. Referring to the Declaration on the eve of its 50th birthday, Jefferson wrote:

May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.

Happy Fourth.

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