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Showing posts with label Slave. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Slave. Show all posts

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Independence Day - A Holiday Reflection


I have always loved the fourth of July; the mid-summer holiday, the nostalgic look back at the victories of the Continental Soldiers, the American revolutionaries who threw off the yoke of tyranny and the oppression of kings.

I loved it.

I loved it uncritically as a child.

I loved it without thought or question, and a part of me still does.

As I grew older and learned more about the real history of the revolutionary war, the real politics of the founders, the philosophies that drove them, the numerous ways in which they were morally and ethically compromised (compromised is too light of a word), compromised by war mongering and profiteering, compromised by slave-holding and the exclusion of women from governance; compromised by religious intolerance and a greed that drove them against the First People, as I learned more about these historical-truths it became self-evident that the nation was founded on a carefully balanced set of ideals that the founders themselves did not have the courage to live up to.

America was founded on a compact of lies.

The preamble to the constitution states that all people are created equal, that all people inherently possess rights which we cannot be separated from, the foremost of which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We hold these truths to be self-evident that these rights are inalienable, or so we are told. We are told that these rights do not derive from government, they derive from God, the creator of the universe, God the creator of every person in it, these rights do not belong to us because we are Americans, they belong to us because we are human beings and the American purpose is to defend those rights, both within our borders and around the world.

We have only ever paid lip service to these ideals. It was never more than wishful thinking, and today within our own borders we are trampling all over these rights, rights which belong to everyone, including, the immigrant and the alien among us, including our black and brown skinned sisters and brothers, including the working poor, and the homeless and everyone struggling to get by.

Instead of welcoming and protecting and sheltering the poor and the disenfranchised who have come to us for asylum, we are imprisoning them, denying them due process, dehumanizing them, abusing them, and it is breaking my heart.

Instead of protecting and serving the citizenry we are paying huge sums of money to police forces that kill the people with gross prejudice and criminal discrimination.

We have always failed to live up to our ideals.

The expression of these self-evident truths in the Declaration of Independence, and its codification in law in the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights, did not at the same time abolish the institutions of slavery, give women the right to own land, to vote and other modes of self-determination, neither did it not outlaw wars of aggression against the sovereign nations of the First People. These self-evident truths, these inalienable rights, did not prevent the United States of America from entering a campaign of genocide and extermination against them.

The founders applied these principles to themselves and their “peers,” they used those principles to justify their separation from the dominion of the kings of England, they used these principles to protect their property after the War of Independence had been won, but they refused to extend these principles to everyone within the aegis of American power; we continue to live with those failures today.

The 4th of July is Independence Day, it is a day to celebrate our freedom, and our victory in the Revolutionary War, there is much to celebrate in that.

I am a veteran, I know that war and battle create many opportunities for selflessness and displays of courage that most human beings cannot help but admire and applaud, even though the antecedents of war and the causes of conflict are always unjust, morally vacant and abhorrent.

Always and without exception war represents a failure of human beings to live up to the purpose we were created for.

In my heart, I want to celebrate the revolutionaries, their courage, the flag which unifies us as a nation, but I find it difficult. The story of America, beginning on July 4th, is one that has many bright moments, but we are foolish, cold-hearted and ignorant if we do not at the same time recognize the millions of slaves who built our first cities, who farmed the plantations, who established our first industries and the millions of people belonging to sovereign nations that we crushed in our westward expansion, starving and killing them without mercy, displacing them, outlawing their religion and customs, erasing their languages.

I find it difficult.

Who among us, knowing that history, finds it easy?

You would have to be a monster to be unmoved by the tragedies that ensued after the signing of our Declaration.

Yesterday Donald Trump held a political rally at Mount Rushmore, a sacred site that was stolen from the First People and carved up into a monument to honor a group of men, who may have been brilliant and wise and courageous, but who were also deeply flawed and guilty of the worst crimes against humanity

Donald Trump did it to exacerbate the racial tension that has griped the country in the fourth year of his presidency. He held it there like a cartoon villain, bankrupt and with no good reason to continue, he did it to stroke his ego to cover up the blemish of his incompetence at handling the worst public health crises the country has ever seen.

The 4th of July should be a time of soul searching and deep reflection and community, forget about the flag waving and jingoism.

Ask yourself what it means to be an American; immigrant, refugee, stolen people, enslaved people, conquered people, vanquished people, and the revolutionary. We are the descendants of them all, the immigrant, the refugee, the stolen, the enslaved, the conquered, the vanquished; we are their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren…we are one people with a common history, and a common set of ideals we should be continuously striving to live up to.

We are a great nation, if and only if we remember it all.



Given – 2020.07.04
Given 1st - 2016.07.04

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a day set aside for reflection. It is meant for us to honor our fallen dead.
The meaning of this day has changed much since its founding. At its inception, it was meant to honor our African American soldiers, both the soldiers born-free and the former slaves who gave their lives, men and women, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters who gave everything they had, to keep the union whole.
They died for an America which they only dreamed could exist. They died for these United States, for this reality, an America that is still in a state of becoming.
They died for us, for good or ill, they died for us.
We have yet to repay them, to fulfill their hopes for the America they dreamt of; America, daughter of liberty, of truth, and justice.
We honor our dead on this day; our soldiers and sailors and airmen, our police and firefighters; we honor them. We honor all of our citizens who spent their lives, who give their days to public service; we honor our doctors and nurses and teachers, the good works of our ordinary citizens, of our friends and neighbors, we honor everyone’s sacrifices; known and unknown, and those yet to come.
This year we must honor two men who gave their lives, just days ago, on a train in Portland, Oregon. The stood up to man who was berating two Muslim women. The man turned and attacked them with a knife, killing them before he fled.
We must honor them, and their sacrifice, they died upholding our most cherished values, that recognition that we are one people come from many nations, and that we each come into the world with the absolute right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  
On this day of all days, do not make the mistake of thinking that it is our service women and men who keep us free. It has been at least sixty years since America faced an “existential” threat from a foreign power.
We do not face such a threat right now; not from ISIS, not from North Korea, not from Russia, not from anywhere.
The real threat we face is from ourselves, from our ignorance, and from our fear, the mind killer, the little death that brings total obliteration, we must face that fear and confront it.
It is we, and we alone, who can protect us from ourselves.
Our own apathy, our prejudice, and our hatred, these are more dangerous forces aligned against us, against our freedom. They are more deadly than any power in the world.
To honor our fallen dead, you must do your part to keep us free. You must participate in our democracy.
Vote, stay informed, organize, build alliances, and collaborate.
Our collective failure has placed a criminal, autocratic, demagogue in the White House, allowed the Supreme Court to state that corporations are to be treated as people, and money regarded as free speech, while those same justices have told ordinary American’s that the right to free speech does not include the right to be heard, and that the right to vote does not include the guarantee that your vote will be counted.
This rank cynicism is more dangerous to our freedom than any rag tag group of militants half way around the world, more dangerous than immigrants looking across our borders, looking to us for a better way of life, as my own forebears did when they came here.
Honor our fallen dead. Not with cards and flowers and barbeques (but do those things because they are good), honor them by standing up to racism and bigotry, to religious zealotry and corporate greed, to scientific ignorance and xenophobia, and corruption in our public officials, in our highest offices.
Honor them by participating in our public discourse. Do not lose heart, and do not give up.
We must rebuild America, reform our institutions, for the sake of Americans and our future generations. We must take responsibility for your own freedom.
Honor the fallen, in this way.
Jay P. Botten, Veteran, U.S.N., Hospital Corps, 1990 – 1994
Given 1st 2015.05.25, Revised 2016.05.31

Revised 2017.05.29

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a day set aside; and meant for us to honor our fallen dead.
The meaning of this day has changed much since its inception. Originally, it was meant to honor our African American soldiers; both free and former slaves who gave their lives, both men and women, both mothers and fathers, sons and daughters both, to keep the union whole.
They died for an America they only dreamed existed. They died for these United States; for this reality, which is still in a state of becoming. They died for us; for good or ill, they died for us.
We honor our dead; our soldiers and sailors and airmen, our police and firefighters; we honor them. We honor all of our citizens who spent their lives, who spend their lives in public service; we honor our doctors and nurses and teachers, the good works of our ordinary citizens, of our friends and neighbors, we honor everyone’s sacrifices; known and unknown, and yet to come.
On this day of all days, do not make the mistake of thinking that it is our service women and men who keep us free. It has been at least sixty years since America faced an “existential” threat from a foreign power.
The real threat we face is from ourselves. It is only we; who can protect us from ourselves.
Our own apathy, our prejudice, and our ignorance; these are more dangerous to us, to our freedom, than any power in the world. To honor our fallen dead; you must do your part to keep us free. You must participate in our democracy.
Vote, stay informed, organize.
Our collective failure has allowed the Supreme Court to name corporations as people, and money as free speech, while those same justices have told ordinary American’s that the right to free speech does not include the right to be heard, and that the right to vote does not include the guarantee that your vote will be counted.
That rank cynicism is more dangerous to our freedom than any rag tag group of militants half way around the world, more dangerous than immigrants looking to us for a better way of life, as my forebears did when they came here.
Honor our fallen dead. Not with cards and flowers and barbeques (but do those things because they are good), honor them by standing up to racism, bigotry, religious zealotry, corporate greed, scientific ignorance, xenophobia, and corruption in public officials; honor them by participating.
Rebuild America, reform our institutions, for the sake of Americans and our future generations. Take responsibility for your own freedom. Honor the fallen.
Jay P. Botten, Veteran, U.S.N., Hospital Corps, 1990 – 1994
Given 1st 2015.05.25

Revised 2016.05.31