Putting a coat of varnish on an old beat-up piece is one way of making it look shinier and maybe younger than its years and wear. Like “fake news,” the ever-so-popular-with-the-conservative-base meme, varnish gives an illusion of things being other than they are. Let me explain what I mean about “fake news”– for the most part this is a term used to denigrate the factual. Varnish, in its way, denigrates a reality as well; it alters –or attempts to alter–the age and condition of the furniture to which it is applied. In this way, varnish is truly a fakery, while “fake news” is a slur against truth.
Many of us are, or are descendents of those who have come from far away to be in America. The place we were born and the one in which we landed conspire to make our identity. We say we are Italian-Americans, or Americans of German ancestry. Some brought the homeland with them, for instance, naming a place in Maine after Denmark and another after Poland. Those of us lucky enough to be from my city mostly just say we’re New Yorkers.
As citizens of the United States, however, we are always recognized by our distinctive Americanness. Who are you? I am an American.
What does that mean? I am an American. It means I honor the hard-won rights, liberties, and responsibilities of all those singular and distinguished Americans who forged this “more perfect union.” Some of us continue to struggle to keep the ideals of our Constitution (and its amendments) intact. We are united in the laws of our land. We are one under a flag that represents American values. Nothing should divide us, although many things do.
Sometimes it’s our background, or place of origin that keeps us from acknowledging that we are all one people. Sometimes, it’s our ethnic heritage or religious beliefs that we hold above being an American. Sometimes it’s the ethnicity (or choice of worship) of our fellow Americans that we disparage, showing disrespect not only to our compatriots but also to our way of life. We allow differences in political orientation to distract us from who we truly are. We are not Republicans or Democrats. As denizens of a democratic republic, we are in truth both. We need to celebrate and esteem our “nation, indivisible” and recognize the unity that is these UNITED STATES of America.
Happy 4th of July!
Who needs civil liberties? The rights of our citizens were hard-won. Freedom did not just emerge from the blood and sweat of the Revolutionary War in documents of federation and constitutional laws. Some Americans had many more years to struggle to see their rights recognized. Many of our privileges evolved in the amendments to our Bill of Rights over the 3 centuries since that war established a United States.
The simple single answer is we all do. Remembering, as always, that with rights come responsibilities.
Sometimes it is not possible to quell the anger, fear and hatred of a policeman who stops a citizen for a tail-light violation. Situations get out of hand. The driver is arrested.
Many of the folks incarcerated have committed only the crime of “driving while black.” Responsible parents in the Afro-American community teach their children how to mitigate the outcomes of this very serious circumstance. It is one which affects the statistic in which 14% of a county’s population are prosecuted or jailed for more than 50% of the crimes committed there.
When 14% of a county’s population in places like Mississippi, for instance, are prosecuted for more than half the crimes committed in that county, it looks like that 14% are the bad seed. Looks can be deceiving. Statistics like these are clearly skewed. They are also deceiving.
Reconstruction was the period in American history when the country sought to heal the wounds of a civil war. “Civil” war is such a deceptive phrase, really. Really? It is probably the very definition of an oxymoron.
Our Pledge of Allegiance was one of the products of reconstruction. It was used as a symbol of the nation’s unity.
During that war from 1860 to 1864, the country was divided, fighting under two separate flags, not for liberty or justice, but for the sovereign right of one part of this nation to earn its living by enslaving human beings. Since that project, slavery, slipped away, Americans turned to “taming” the west, which turned out to be a project in which it was necessary to kill off as many Indians as possible. Native American tribes stood in the way of our country’s westward progress. We couldn’t have that, and fighting them off their lands became an all-American enterprise.
The wild west was so called not because of all the nightclubbing and disco parties, but because of the untempered vunityiolence it allowed, even encouraged.
When did it become a populist (and popular) position that the United States Constitution is not good enough for us?
Did we as a nation of free men and women suddenly decide that we would prefer to have our principles disrupted? Is it now accepted as American patriotism to want to destroy American institutions?
We have tolerated a great deal from our leaders, like the House Tea Party faction, who would not lead. We allowed our elected officials to shut down our government. We let them rule by inaction.
For their failure to lead and legislate, we rewarded them with opportunities to consolidate their power for their own gains and not our interests.
Is this the country your civics lessons present as the greatest democracy? When will we take it back from demagogues who appeal to our basest instincts?
When will we reinstate rule of law? When will demand of legislators that they uphold the ideals of our Constitution? When will reclaim the rights guaranteed us, and all our countrymen and women?
Check, check and balance
The legislature is here to enact laws abiding by the precedents set forth by the Constitution of the United States of America.
The executive branch of our government is guided by the same precedents in overseeing the welfare of all of the country’s citizenry.
The judiciary ensures that the rule of law is followed; it determines the legality and Cosntitutionality of the actions of the other branches of government. The judiciary is an overseer.
My FB acquaintances shared this bit of advice regarding political speech that seems appropriate to pass along.
Some wise advice circulating that I’d like to share with you:
1. Don’t use his name
2. Remember this is a regime, and he’s not acting alone
3. Don’t argue with those who support him – it doesn’t work
4. Focus on his policies, not his orange-ness or mental state
5. Keep your message positive; they want the country to be angry and fearful because this is the soil from which their darkest policies will grow
6. No more helpless/hopeless talk
7. Support artists and the arts
8. Donate or volunteer your time to causes and organizations that support the resistance
9. Be careful not to spread fake news. Check your sources!
10. Take care of yourselves
11. Resist! But keep demonstrations peaceful. In the words of John Lennon, “When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you – pull your beard, flick your face – to make you fight! Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humor.”
12. When you post or talk about him, don’t assign his actions to him, assign them to “The Republican Administration,” or “The Republicans.” This will have several effects: the Republican legislators will either have to take responsibility for their association with him or stand up for what some of them don’t like; he will not get the focus of attention he craves; and Republican representatives will become very concerned about their re-elections.