Happy Independence Day

Independence

 

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.  (1) 

The word “traditional” is sticking in my craw lately, like a piece of stringy meat digging under the gum line, escaping traditional means of extrication, and requiring a DDS-licensed exorcist who comes armed with tiny, shiny traditional hooks, a traditional reclining chair and a traditional blinding light. Nevertheless, this pledge is our traditional pledge of allegiance, and often recited in honor of our traditional Fourth of July.

We’ve shortened “Independence Day” to “the Fourth,” as if it were just another day on the calendar, albeit one that creates a long weekend of fireworks, cooking out, and camaraderie, and we seem to have forgotten that this, “the Fourth,” is the day that the United States adopted the Declaration of Independence, standing apart from Great Britain and declaring itself no longer British property.

The thirteen colonies were young and brash, and so full of hope, and they created a nation that stood up and stood apart and stood firm.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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.  (2)

Because of these self-evident truths, we formed our own government in order to have a government we could consent to.

A government instituted with the consent of the governed.

For better or worse, whatever our political affiliation may be, We The People have consented to our government.

I have been politically apathetic for the vast majority of my adult life.

No more.

My apathy has been construed—and rightly so—as consent.

No more.

I’m not young, but I’m sometimes a bit brash. I am full of hope, however, and I choose to stand up, stand apart if need be, and stand firm in order to help create a small part of the Republic that may have the audacity to form a more perfect Union so that maybe, just maybe, we can stand, indivisible, one Nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.

For all. Not just people I like. Not just people like me. For all.

Silence is consent.  Apathy is consent.  Allowing people in office who lack moral fiber because they may allow our minute special interests to be furthered is consent.

We don’t know what the next President is going to face. If we choose someone with vision, someone with guts, someone with gravitas, who’s connected to other people’s lives and cares about making them better; if we choose someone to inspire us then we’ll be able to face what comes our way and achieve things we can’t imagine yet. (3)

Toby Ziegler says this about the office of the President of the United States, but it’s true of anyone who is elected.

Stand up. Stand apart if need be. Stand firm.

We can change the scope of politics. We can make a difference.

There’s a scene in “The West Wing” where Governor Bartlet, while campaigning for President, is asked why he voted against the New England Dairy Farmers. “I’m a business man,” the petitioner says, “and that will hurt me to the tune of about 10 cents a gallon. I voted for you three times as Congressman, two times as governor. I’m here, sir, and I’d like to ask you for an explanation.”

Bartlet, after a brief pause, puts his hands in his pockets and says, “Yep. I screwed you on that one. You got hosed. Not just you but a lot of my constituents.”  He then goes on to talk about children in poverty, gives statistics, and gives his unequivocal reason: “I voted against the bill because I didn’t want to make it harder for people to buy milk. I stopped some money from flowing into your pocket. If that angers you, if you resent me, I completely respect that. But if you expect anything different from the President of the United States, you should vote for someone else.” (4)

This was the moment that Bartlet’s future staffers knew he was the real deal. This is the moment they found something to believe in. Someone to believe in.

He didn’t pander. He didn’t say what was popular. He demonstrated what he stood for in a way that left no doubt as to his position, and told people if they didn’t like it, to vote for someone else. He was less concerned with getting elected than he was in doing the right thing.

I know that “The West Wing” is a highly idealized version of government and candidates. I also know that if We The People demand answers like this—straight answers—without non-answer answers, without non-apology apologies, we just may get what we need, even if it’s someone we may not agree with.  Honest and accountability need to come first.

Declare independence from passive citizenship. Declare independence from isolated sound bites, from bombastic reporting, from negative campaigning, from the lesser of two evils, and from our own uneducated decisions.  Declare independence from the need to support party over policy.  Hold candidates accountable. Demand answers.

Want things to be better? Stand up. Stand apart if need be. Stand firm.

Choose. Act. Vote.

We can change the scope of politics. We can make a difference.

Stand up. Stand apart if need be. Stand firm. It is then—and only then—do we have a chance to erase the divisibility of our nation and allow for the possibility that maybe—just maybe, we can stand, indivisible, one Nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.

Happy Independence Day.

Sources:

1. Image: http://www.wallpaperup.com/742477/4TH_JULY_Independence_Day_usa_america_holiday_1ijuly_united_states_flag_poster_g.html

2. Pledge of Allegiance to the United States of America, as adopted in 1954.

3. From the Declaration of Independence.

4. The West Wing, 4.1 “20 Hours in America, Part 1.”

5. The West Wing, 2.1 “In the Shadow of Two Gunmen: Part 1.”

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