Sunday, July 04, 2004

Barbara Ehrenreich: King George then, and King George now 

Maybe the Times is, belatedly, albeit clumsily, trying to clean itself up. Barbara Ehrenreich is now on the OpEd page, though temporarily. (When the Times start heaving bodies out of the Augean stables of what would laughingly be called a "news" gathering operation, in particular their campaign operation, we'll know a clean up is really under way. Some retractions on Gore 2000, and Whitewater would be, of course, too much to hope for). Contrast what follows to the relentless triviality of MoDo's all-too-ironically named "liberties."

Anyhow, Barbara Ehrenreich takes a look at the Declaration of Independence:

When they first heard the Declaration of Independence [here] in July of 1776, New Yorkers were so electrified that they toppled a statue of King George III and had it melted down to make 42,000 bullets for the war. Two hundred twenty-eight years later, you can still get a rush from those opening paragraphs. "We hold these truths to be self-evident." The audacity!

Read a little further to those parts of the declaration we seldom venture into after ninth-grade civics class, and you may feel something other than admiration: an icy chill of recognition. The bulk of the declaration is devoted to a list of charges against George III, several of which bear an eerie relevance to our own time.

The signers further indicted their erstwhile monarch for "taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments." The administration has been trying its best to establish a modern equivalent to the divine right of kings, with legal memorandums asserting that George II's "inherent" powers allow him to ignore federal laws prohibiting torture and war crimes.

But it is the final sentence of the declaration that deserves the closest study: "And for the support of this Declaration . . . we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." Today, those who believe that the war on terror requires the sacrifice of our liberties like to argue that "the Constitution is not a suicide pact." In a sense, however, the Declaration of Independence was precisely that.

By signing Jefferson's text, the signers of the declaration were putting their lives on the line. England was then the world's greatest military power, against which a bunch of provincial farmers had little chance of prevailing. Benjamin Franklin wasn't kidding around with his quip about hanging together or hanging separately. If the rebel American militias were beaten on the battlefield, their ringleaders could expect to be hanged as traitors.

They signed anyway, thereby stating to the world that there is something worth more than life, and that is liberty. Thanks to their courage, we do not have to risk death to preserve the liberties they bequeathed us. All we have to do is vote.
(via NY Times)

By contrast, Bush tells us to "go shopping." Translation: Be cowards. Moral clarity...

NOTE And a bonus: Ehrenreich gives us a new term of abuse for the wingers: Tories. I like it...

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