When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
– Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
These majestic words are the preamble to the document that created our country and once and for all separated us from our colonial masters, Great Britain. Every summer, we celebrate this date with fireworks, backyard barbeques, parades, festivals and all other manner of summer celebration. We pause to remember those great men who took such an enormous risk to gather in the heat of a Philadelphia summer to sign this document that would forever sever the bonds of colonialism and would propel us forward into a brave new world, a new country unlike any ever created, where all people would be considered to be created equal, where freedom and liberty would be the hallmarks by which we were governed, and where the citizens had the right to redress of grievances from their government, a government that they could potentially overthrow if they found it to be in violation of its basic tenets.
We have reached an age wherein our government has become a tyrannical one, where dissent is discouraged, where religion is rapidly becoming the state, where our basic civil rights are being curtailed, and where our freedoms are being challenged in the name of a so-called “War on Terror." It would seem that few people realize how perilous our situation has truly become. We have three more years of this administration and if things continue unchanged along their current path, we will find ourselves in a country we no longer recognize. Already, it is beginning to look that way. We look more and more like the countries we say that we are fighting, where fundamentalist regimes keep a tight grip on their people and where dissent is not permitted. We have what could easily pass for state television, where propaganda is spewed out by screeds who command far too much attention and who seem to have limitless air time and money to buy it. We have proposed amendments to our Constitution that would ban things rather than extend rights. Only once in our country’s long history has any Constitutional amendment banned anything, and even then, it didn’t last.
We have an atmosphere of intolerance for anything that doesn’t fall into a narrow definition – if you are gay or in need of an abortion, don’t even think of saying so. Our once cherished standards for human rights are being trammeled on by a few extremists who feel that the only way to fight and win a War on Terror is to practice the same kinds of tactics as our enemies. Our good name overseas is gone, and we find ourselves isolated in the world community and regarded as some kind of rogue state. We are in more danger now of a terrorist attack on our soil than we were before 9/11. Had we practiced more cultural sensitivity and worked to wean ourselves off of Middle East oil decades ago, this entire episode might well have been avoided in the first place. So here we are, in the opening years of the 21st century, in a country that has, essentially, been hijacked by a few extremists bent on forwarding their agenda, and what used to pass for an opposition party seems to be scrambling to move more toward the center and become a “lite” version of them rather than come out in full throated opposition. Fear has emasculated the once mighty Democratic Party.
So what are we to do about all this? Sit back, wring our hands and lament the loss of our country, or do what our forebears did and demand a change of government when the one we have has slid into tyranny? Times were that the dreaded “I” word, that being “Impeachment”, was only spoken by a few of us who knew that this was a tool written into our Constitution that guaranteed us the right to a redress of grievances and a change of government. Even the Declaration of Independence tells us that we should declare the causes which impel us to the separation of political bands which connect us. Those causes have been made more than clear and it’s time now to do something about it. We can no longer sit idly by and sigh and hope that something will happen someday. That someday can’t come soon enough. We can’t afford another three years of this disastrous administration. The time is now to come together and speak with one voice. Two hundred and thirty years ago this summer, our forebears took a great leap into the unknown by their actions. Change is scary, sure, but we must demand a change for the better and dispatch this administration home to Texas and Wyoming to their hallowed “ranchettes” to play cowboy to their hearts content while we go about the business of repairing the damage that they have done to our sacred country.
What better time than now, approaching the 230th anniversary of our country?
Sally Burnell is on the Steering Committee of the Social Justice Committee at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent, Ohio. Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.