Just Another Day … 04 July 2017

On Tuesday, 4 July, the nation will celebrate the anniversary of publication of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776.

A bit of history: The first description of how Independence Day would be celebrated was in a letter from John Adams to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776. He described “pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations” throughout the United States. However, the term “Independence Day” was not used until 1791.

adams-jefferson

Jefferson & Adams

A bit of trivia: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both signers of the Declaration of Independence and presidents of the United States, died on July 4, 1826 – exactly 50 years after the adoption of the declaration.

Today, most families celebrate the holiday pretty much as described by John Adams, with parades, picnics, and at the end of the day, fireworks.

To be sure, there are still plenty of good things about this nation.  There are a multitude of “good people doing good things”, as I point out every Wednesday.  And there are many, many people who are fighting every day for truth, justice, and equal rights for all.  We have beautiful lakes, mountains and forests. And as of this writing, we are relatively free from oppression, we have a relatively free press and freedom to speak our minds, else I would not be writing this blog.  However …

This year, I must admit that I have no joy over the holiday.  Always in the past, I have felt proud of what had been accomplished in our nation in just two centuries, was proud to be a citizen of the United States.  No country is perfect, and I understood the flaws of our government and our citizenry, but still … it was a pretty damn good country.  Today, however, I am not all that proud of this nation.  I am ashamed and disgusted.  I have even wondered if perhaps we would have been better off to have remained a colony of the crown.

Much of my shame, of course, comes from what has become of the office of the president.  Even though we have had some less-than-noble men sitting in the Oval Office before, it has never been as thoroughly defiled as it has been over the past five months.  The policies and ideologies of the current administration are in direct contrast to those put forth by the framers of the Constitution, who began that document with the words:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

To celebrate 241 years, even as our citizens are being deprived of adequate, affordable health care, are being deprived of clean air and water, deprived of a solid education for their children, seems wrong.  Our African-American citizens are often being abused, targeted by the very officers of the law who should be protecting them, and are not given justice for any of it.  Our tax dollars go to buy guns, tanks and bombs, not to provide basic necessities for our poor and elderly.  So no, I find no pride in my heart for the government of this nation. At its head is a ‘man’ who is vulgar, crass, and respects no one. It is comprised of rich, corrupt men who care not a whit for the citizens … not a whit.

But my shame and disappointment goes much deeper than just the people in the White House and Congress, for they shall pass through quickly enough (we hope) and be replaced with other, hopefully more conscionable politicians.  The deepest part of my shame is with my fellow citizens.

I am ashamed that a large portion of this country believe that they are superior to others because of the colour of their skin.  I am ashamed that many have chosen to hate and even murder others because they do not share the same religion.  I am ashamed of those who cannot accept that a person may fall in love with another of the same gender.  I am ashamed that people are more willing to fight to carry lethal weapons than they are to fight for their children.  I am ashamed that people have reverted to the racism of the past without learning from the lessons of history.  I am ashamed of the people who would turn away refugees from the Middle East and send them to an almost certain death.  I am ashamed when I hear people promoting violence against their fellow humans at rallies and protests, that some still have not learned the art of ‘peaceful’ protest.  I am ashamed that so many are willing to sacrifice our very planet out of ignorance.  I am ashamed that so many refuse to learn facts, but rather accept as fact whatever they are told. I am ashamed of those who use their religion as a shield, but judge people by the colour of their skin and refuse to offer assistance to those in need.

Most of all, I am saddened by the vileness and hate I read about every day.  Certainly it is natural that we are not all going to agree on everything, that there will be debates and disputes, but today in this nation, there is pure, ugly hate.  The person who is supposed to be a leader incites violence, tells people to punch others and he will cover their legal fees.  A man recently elected to Congress beat up a reporter who was just doing his job the night before he was elected.

For me, all of this makes it very difficult to celebrate a day that should be about being proud of our nation, for I am not at all proud right now.  In my household, Tuesday will be just another day.  There will be no grill-out, no parades, no fireworks.  I shall write, my daughter will study, and Miss Goose will no doubt draw.  And we will be content in our own skins, but I think none of us will be particularly proud of what our nation has become.  I find no reason for a celebration this July fourth.  For me, it is just another day.

lady liberty cries

Campaigns 2016 … Where is the Dignity?

It is quickly becoming apparent to me that this election war is not going to be fought on the battlefields of policy, the trenches of qualifications, nor the foxholes of experience, but in the murky fields of sleaze and scandal.  I and a handful of others stand at Gettysburg, Shiloh, and Fort Sumter, muskets loaded, awaiting the arrival of our counterparts, but they are off wallowing in the pig sties of filth, slop, and lies.  What gives?

I admit that I am quick to bash Trump on a variety of issues, such as his lies, his lack of government experience, and his racist ideology, if one can call it an ideology. However, I have mostly left alone his personal past, believing instead that our choice of a leader should be predicated on knowledge and understanding of the job at hand, the qualifications of the candidate, and on the direction the nation is going and needs to go.  But I am beginning to feel very much alone on this train.  The rest of the nation, it seems, would rather focus on Trump’s relationship with women and Clinton’s husband’s affairs.  I would rather know what the candidates see as our role in the Middle East than what they see as their role in the bedroom. I would prefer to know their level of commitment toward environmental issues than the size of their … hands.

mud2Perhaps, looking back, this circus that we are calling an election season has been coming to town for a long time now.  In 1796, Alexander Hamilton, writing under the pen name “Phocion,” attacked Thomas Jefferson on the pages in Gazette of the United States, a federalist paper in Philadelphia, claiming that Jefferson was having an affair with one of his slaves (which, of course, turned out to be true). In the same election, Adams supporters also claimed that Jefferson’s election would result in a civil war, that he would free the slaves, and that he was an atheist. GASP!!! In response, Jefferson referred to Adams as “old, querulous, bald, blind, crippled, toothless Adams.” Tsk, tsk … such maturity.

mud4In the 1828 election between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, the mudslinging went to extremes.  One of Adams’s supporters, a Philadelphia printer named John Binns, produced a variety of handbills, known as the Coffin Handbills. One of the handbills accused Jackson of being a cannibal, saying that after massacring over 500 Indians one evening, “the bloodthirsty Jackson began again to show his cannibal propensities, by ordering his Bowman to dress a dozen of these Indian bodies for his breakfast, which he devoured without leaving even a fragment.” Another of Adams’ supporters, Charles Hammond, claimed that “General Jackson’s mother was a common prostitute brought to this country by British soldiers. She afterwards married a mulatto man, with whom she had several children, of which General Jackson is one!!!” Jackson’s followers, meanwhile, accused Adams of providing an American girl for the “services” of the Russian czar when Adams was ambassador to Russia. They branded Adams “Pimp to the Coalition”.

1844 Democrats backing James K. Polk claim that Henry Clay had sex with whores and, furthermore, broke all 10 of the commandments; in lieu of evidence, they declared simply that the details are “too disgusting to appear in public print.”  Today, I am certain, the details would appear in at least some publications.  In the 1912 contest between Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft, Roosevelt referred to Taft as a “fathead” and “puzzlewit”. Puzzlewit … I rather like that one!  And then, who can forget the Obama campaign accusing Mitt Romney of tying the family dog to the roof of a car?  And then there was the ‘birther’ issue that was trumped up by … well, you know.

mud3Okay, so all the wallowing amongst the pigs is nothing new to election campaigns, but is it productive?  If there is any benefit to this style of campaigning, I certainly cannot see what it is.  In 2012, CNN referred to the mudslinging campaigns of both Romney and Obama as similar to the familiar acronym ‘MAD’ … mutually assured destruction.  I think that pretty much sums it up.  There is more harm than good to come from these types of campaigns.  Who is to blame?  Certainly the candidates themselves, as they must approve all advertisements for their campaign, and more to the point, they are the very ones slinging the slop.  But there is plenty of blame to go around, and the media is deserving of their fair share.  I include both mainstream media, particularly Fox News and CNN, but also social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  I am very close to abandoning my Facebook account for this very reason.  And lastly, We The People must bear our share, the lion’s portion, I believe, of the blame.  The public is all too quick to jump on the bandwagon at the slightest hint of a scandal while at the same time appearing bored by talk of foreign policy, economics, environment, and other serious issues that we need to be discussing. There is a saying in the media, “If it bleeds, it leads”.  It is our fascination with scandal and sensationalism that leads the media to focus on the irrelevant.  And it is the media’s focus that drives the candidates in their quest for more airtime, more free advertising.

The U.S. election process seems to be becoming more of a spectator sport or a reality program than a serious venue for the exchange of ideas to help us choose the most qualified of two candidates.  My take?  If you want drama and excitement, or you want to see people having sex or comparing body parts, yelling, ranting and raving, watch television.  My advice?  To the candidates, I say speak softly, intelligently, and refuse to lower yourselves to the level of a pig.  To the voters, I implore you to demand serious answers to serious questions and refuse to be swayed by the pure crap that has become ‘Election 2016.’