Wednesday, July 04, 2007


As I pondered what to write for today, July 4, the celebration of our independence from England, I was struck by a subtle-yet-recurring theme of my blog over the past year: the distracted citizenry.

We each of us goes about our lives, trying to get one more day behind us: work, school, family. Hobbies. Sports. Television. The latest celebrity sightings. And yes, for a small percentage of us, politics.

Some few of us are activist, and by "activist," I mean anything from writing a letter to a Congressman up to helping a politician run for office. I despair when I think that, even at political blogs, even among those who write and rant and front a facade of caring and criticism, that percentage that take the next step and even just write a letter to the editor is tiny, a single digit percentage.

That despair deepens when I realize that the population as a whole doesn't even bother to read a political blog (right wing or left, doesn't matter). If, say, Crooks and Liars gets a half-million hits in a day, what's that compared to a population of 300 million people?

We who read these blogs, we obviously care, even if the percentage of people who voice that caring is so small (by my Sitemeter, I get about a five percent commenting rate versus the number of visitors I have in a day). We can't be the only people who care, though?

My despair deepens when I see a story like Bush's inevitable pardon of Scooter Libby hit amidst outrage and uproar, yet I know deep in my heart, this too shall pass with little to show that America lived up to its ideals.

How do you stop time, and grab every single American's attention, shake them, point to this story and say, "Do you understand what this means? This means that the ideals this nation was founded on, that we are ALL equal and that if one of us fucks up, he pays the same price as anyone else!" and make them understand that the very basis for their lives of muddled mediocrity-- their pathetic wage-slavery, their pitiful house still owned largely by their bank, their children's substandard education, their gas-guzzling, carbon emitting, 10 miles to the gallon birthright of a tugboat SUV-- are all in jeopardy from this small cabal of evil men?

(ed. note. run on sentence, I know, I'm sorry, I'm basically dictating this as I go)

In short, how do we get them to be citizens again?

Aristotle once said, "To take no part in the running of the community's affairs is to be either a beast or a god!” To put it in modern terms, we Americans, along with a Bill of Rights, should have had a Bill of Responsibilities handed down to us, to ensure that we'd maintain at least a minimal involvement in our community.

Without that, our community has grown so large and so interconnected that we've become less of a community and more of an agglomeration of subnations: blue states, red states, Progressive, Regressive Conservative, black, white, Latino, Asian.

We've forgotten what it means to be a citizen of the greatest society in the history of the planet, and as such, we've allowed these evil-doers freedom to tear the fabric of society asunder. Not ten years ago, America enjoyed its golden age: a decade, a decade, mind you, of unparalleled peace and unparalleled prosperity for all its citizens.

And we, Americans, gave it all back: "Here, this is too much for us to handle! You guys take it!" We elected Bush, and despite all the signs of stolen elections, gave in with nary a whimper. Don't blame Al Gore or any one Senator: we could have, should have, as a people, made a bigger stink. Democrats would have lined up to co-sponsor that challenge in Congress to the Electoral Congress if they believed there was a bigger risk in silently assenting to this coronation than in challenging it.

And you'll notice, I'm not talking to the small percentage of us here who actually DID register a protest, did write a letter, did make a call, but to the cowards here, and in the population in general, who couldn't be bothered to be heard out of fear of...what? Sticking your neck out?

We're all going to hang now, when we should have hung together then. Then, we would have hung as free men (and women), making the point that our citizenship meant more to us than "our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor". Now, we hang as slaves, lynched from the tree of indifference.

It's all for naught if we don't have freedom. And I, for one, would trade all the days that have passed since that cold January morning for the chance to stand up and let the world hear us, with one voice, say "No, our freedom is not for sale, will not be bartered and cannnot be stolen!"

We are citizens, and by whatever deity you believe in, it is our god-given duty , our natural born responsibility, our birthright, to stand up now and be heard, lest the hangman's noose of history's judgement tighten around our necks. Ask a German what it feels like to have lived Pastor Niemoller's lament:
"When Hitler attacked the Jews
I was not a Jew, therefore I was not concerned.
And when Hitler attacked the Catholics,
I was not a Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned.
And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists,
I was not a member of the unions and I was not concerned.
Then Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church --
and there was nobody left to be concerned."
More, it's our honor and our challenge to go out and make people care. We need, on this July Fourth especially, since it falls midweek and people aren't going to completely disconnect from the world around them, to stop being polite about getting into a confrontation (while being polite IN that confrontation) and start speaking out.

The temptation is great to just ignore differing opinions, particularly when they are extremist and hate-filled: what good can come of it? Heinlein once wrote: "Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig.”

We need to annoy the pigs. We need to present, not to those who hold irresponsible opposing views, but to the vast majority of people who hear both sides, shrug, and walk away, the passion that we feel about this country and about our freedoms, both of which are so desperately in trouble now. Don't be concerned if some right winger throws out a "fact (read: talking point)" that you can't answer: challenge him on it. Make him prove it. ADMIT YOU DON'T KNOW EVERYTHING, but that in your heart, you know that you're right.

Every poll ever taken in the past seven years tells us the American people as a whole more generally favor the liberal agenda to the conservative agenda. We have that on our side, but what we don't have is an army of passionates, apostles, and disciples, who will show people that it's not only church that is a calling.

It's the Fourth Of July. Today, with one voice, with one thought in mind, we declare our independence. We will not vanish without a fight. We will be Americans.