Saturday, July 04, 2015

Independence Day 2015

Every year I find myself quoting not only Jefferson but also Lincoln on the 4th of July, and perhaps it's because we find ourselves in similar straits today to those in which he found himself. We see our nation being splintered and torn asunder by those who would rule over us, unwilling to derive "their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed" but rather arrogating to themselves dictatorial powers and unwilling to recognize opposing views, choosing rather to characterize them as evil and even going so far as to making those thoughts illegal.
In 1776, our forebears faced a tyrannical entity far away across the sea. Today our problem is a tyrannical entity far away in D.C. The saddest part is that, whereas the royal tyrants of earlier times were not elected by the early Americans, too many of our countrymen voted this current crop of tyrants to rule over us, steal our substance, and restrict our liberty.
As my thoughts continue run along similar currents to those of the past, here are quotes from former 4th of July blog posts that still apply today.
2014. Paraphrasing Lincoln, “Now we are engaged in a great politico-socio-economic war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” May G-d grant us the insight, wisdom, and moral courage to extricate ourselves from the self-destructive morass in which we find ourselves—that we might once more be “a shining city on a hill.”
2013. This year's theme: America is an idea. This piece of parchment sets forth that idea:

It has become fashionable nowadays to eschew the Founding Fathers and their ideas. I have no such compunction. Their ideas have withstood the test of time. Would that this current generation realized it.

An image often missing from Independence Day celebrations.  USS Albany (CG-10), a symbol of our military, a guarantor of our freedoms, and my shipboard home for there years.

Our flag is a symbol of the ideas that make us who we are. We must never forgetwho we are.

Our eldest daughter put together this 15-second tribute to our nation. She loves the land of her birthSpain, her homes for many years in Italy, Canada, and Japan, and her current home—Australia, but she understands that "America is portable, we carry it around in our hearts and minds," and "We don't live in America. America lives in us, or to paraphrase a friend—to be an American is "to believe as an American."

2011. We used Dennis Prager's excellent 4th of July Seder. You can learn more about it here.

2010. Our nation's 16th president was faced with the prospect of the dividing asunder of the country and a fundamental change in the underlying principles and character of the nation, in fact a dissolution of the Union envisioned by its founders..
Had there been no Lincoln, it is difficult to imagine what this nation would have become, or whether it would even exist today in any form we would recognize as the United States of America.
We see our nation being pulled apart and splintered by those who would rule over us, unwilling to "derive their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed" but rather arrogating to themselves dictatorial powers.

...that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights."
My Business Law professor had a favorite, trick question. What rights are granted by the U.S. Constitution?

The correct answer, of course, is that the Constitution grants us no rights. Governments do not grant rights. Divine Providence does. The purpose of the Constitution is to prevent government from usurping those rights. Listen to the language of the Bill of Rights. "Congress shall make no law...prohibiting...or abridging..." "the right of the people...shall not be infringed," "no soldier shall...without the consent of the owner," "the right of the people...shall not be violated," "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." The rights exist; the Constitution seeks to prohibit government from preempting them, as it is so often wont to do.
We stand at a crossroads in our nation's history, much like that faced by our 16th president. There are forces at work in our land that would transform the very nature of the United States of America forever. To quote Lincoln, we are now "testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure."
When I enlisted, and reenlisted, and when I was commissioned an officer in the United States Navy, I swore to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" and to "bear true faith and allegiance to the same." Millions of my fellow Americans took the same oath. It has never been more important that we do just that.
2008. The sights and sounds, the music and pageantry of the celebration of the birth of my country never fails to bring tears to my eyes. When I ponder the blessings we have received "with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence," as the writers of the Declaration of Independence put it; when I meditate on the privileges and advantages my family has received in our lives; when I think of my fellow Americans, who share this bounteous prosperity; I am choked up with gratitude and the thought that I did very little to earn these advantages. I was born in this country—born to a life of privilege—not exactly a meritorious act of volition.
In 25 years of service, I never faced down an enemy soldier. I never slept in a tent, never slogged through a swamp in some forsaken jungle, never carried my weapon everywhere for protection, never looked into the eyes of a child and wondered if he or she was wired to kill me. And yet people thank me for my service. How much more should we thank those who face death every day for an ideal, for a 232-year-old experiment called the United States of America.
As I pondered these things, I began to wonder what makes me "proud to be an American." What is the quintessentially American ideal that we celebrate every year on the birth of our nation? Freedom and liberty are words thrown around so much, they mean everything and nothing.

I finally came to the conclusion that I could not improve on the words of the Declaration of Independence and these self-evident truths: "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

And in what is more a declaration of dependence than independence, the following: "And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."

Independence from a despotic power with a "history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over (us)" and dependence on Divine Providence and one another.

And I wondered, deep in my wonderer, in the place where I wonder, whether or not "the governed," i.e. us, we the people, have the capacity and the will and the understanding and the resolve to truly give our informed consent or whether we are destined to submit ourselves again to tyranny. We can only hope, pray, and work together that it be the former and not the latter!
There are those who do give me hope for the future, as for instance my dear friend, John H., who painted this wonderful creation a while back. It seems to fit here on this day.
2007. From Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait
"Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history.
"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we will save our country."

"It is the eternal struggle between two principles, right and wrong, throughout the world. It is the same spirit that says 'you toil and work and earn bread, and I'll eat it.' No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation, and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle." [Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862]

"That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. That this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth." [Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863]

Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." Leviticus 25:10
כן, יהי רצון


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