King Me?

Many a student has sat in their Civics class in High School, hearing the familiar opening words to our “Declaration of Independence”. It begins “When in the course of human events“. Those words, and the rest that follow, were written in 1776 by Thomas Jefferson, adopted by the Continental Congress and then on July 4, signed by 56 members of the Congress. The youngest was 26, and the oldest was Benjamin Franklin at 70. But beyond the opening sentence and the now familiar “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“, how much of the rest does anyone remember? When was the last time you actually read it…digested what it meant…really internalized it? 

That may be due in part to the language of the time, and blogger Leifur Thor has rewritten it in modern language. I’ve linked to his blog so you can see the additional comments if you would like but the document text is below. As I read it, a number of things resonated for me and I saw some frightening parallels. So with all due respect to my friends across the pond, perhaps we all need a reminder of why our founding fathers left England and came to America.

When it becomes necessary to end one political process due to lack of representation, it’s only fair to list the reasons why.

We believe everyone is created equal, and should be afforded the right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness as they see it. We believe these rights a fundamental truth, and no government’s right to curtail, now, and forever more.

That to protect these rights, governments are designed by and get their powers from its People. And when any design of government begins to remove their freedoms, it’s the sole responsibility of its People to repair or replace it.

We shouldn’t change government lightly however, for when we do, people suffer. Therefore, it’s important that whatever form of governing process we agree on, we build it well. When however through any actions this governing body we create, seeks to reduce our civil liberties, and our ability to self govern, it’s not only our right, it’s our civic obligation within any real Republic to amend or throw off such governments, and provide a new governing body that supports civil liberties for all, now, and for future generations. To enjoy civil liberties, our participation in maintaining their security lands squarely on us, the People who live under them.

Looking at the King of England’s record, it’s clear England wants total control of our colonies, compromising our liberties. Here are our facts-

He won’t allow us to create our own laws, a fundamental need for things to work here.

He won’t let us pass important laws we need now. He’s got to sign off on them and when he doesn’t we suffer.

He’s refused to let us pass laws affecting large groups of people in our colonies unless they swore allegiance to him even though they’ve had the right to self govern, clearly showing he’s a tyrant.

He requests meetings of our representatives in far away cold, and strange places for the purpose of wearing them down in to submission so they’ll agree with him.

He’s disbanded our leaders whenever we complain about human rights abuses.

By not allowing us to self govern in any capacity, it opens our colonies up for corruption from within as well as from outside.

He fights to control our colony’s population, immigration, ownership of land, and expansion.

He’s made it difficult to practice the law here, wanting himself to be the ultimate judge and jury.

He’s sent over crooks who he calls judges to dispense his will through courts without trial or jury.

He’s created new offices who’s staff beat business down through harassment to enforce his will upon us.

He’s sent the Army to watch over us, when we didn’t need or want them.

He’s done everything to make his army bigger than our system of law, and our ability to carry out justice.

He refuses to acknowledge our own laws, and tells us we have to follow his laws instead.

For breaking up our military so as to make them vulnerable, and controllable.

For protecting any of the British military personnel by mock trial from going to jail for any reason, allowing them operate outside our own laws.

For cutting off our trade with other countries.

For adding taxes without our consent.

For taking away our right to trial by jury in many cases.

For kidnapping our citizens only to be tried and convicted outside our colonies, and our own laws.

For taking us,one of England’s provinces, removing our laws, forcing his own body of laws on us, and expanding it’s boundary and making it an example of rule of law others must follow or else.

For taking away our charters (forms of legislature) that allow us to govern.

For suspending our own laws, and forcing his own system of justice down our throats.

For disowning our government, and for declaring war on us for having the desire to self-govern.

He has over-fished our waters, burnt up our towns, and destroyed the lives of many people within our colonies.

Right this very moment, he’s sending over a large army of mercenaries with no morals to kill and torture everyone now that he’s ruined our laws protecting the common man. If you think we’ve been repressed up to now, expect the worst you can imagine.

He has kidnapped citizens of our colony on the high seas, and turned them in to his own soldiers only to fight their own brothers and sisters here.

He has manipulated people and groups within our colony to fight each other, and wants rule of law similar to those savage Native Americans who live by war destroying everyone under any conditions. (Guerrilla warfare is probably what they’re talking about here since war prior to that had been fought face to face in broad daylight)

With every action above, we’ve petitioned, and been told in return to “suck it up”. By this alone, it’s time to stand up for ourselves as free people, and kick this tyrant out.

We don’t like making waves. And we’ve warned England from time to time we’ll govern ourselves, reminding England the conditions of our own immigration and settling here, yet even when we’ve shown them how it’s bad business for everyone, they just won’t listen. So it’s up to us to fight for our fundamental rights, and anyone who’s opposed to this inside or out of our borders is our enemy, and anyone forging to expand civil liberties, our friend.

So we the representatives of the people living within these unified States of America gathered here under one roof declare to the supreme judge of the world we are free. We declare we are no longer under the British crown’s rule, and all political connections are hereby over. These Free and Independent States of America have full power to each build partnerships, do business, go to war, or negotiate peace. To show we mean what we say, we offer each other our lives, our fortunes, and our integrity.

 

As American As…

I was reading a news article on CNN.com this morning about our political allies in Europe, and whether or not our allies should contribute more to subsidizing the defense we provide to them. (Yes, I know, it’s a deep subject, try not to faint. And I’m not going into commentary on it anyway, so you can breathe again now.) Something in the article caught my attention, however, and it’s something that has bothered me for quite a while. It’s the casual use of the word “American”.

How many of you really think of what that means? I was really curious about this, because after all, isn’t the news supposed to be in the business of reporting accurately? So I did a little research. According to Wikipedia, America is the same as the United States of America. Hmm, that seemed too easy to me, as it’s not how I remember it from grade school geography, and anyway, everyone knows you never trust only one source, so I pressed on.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary definition is:

  • 1
    either continent (North America or S. America) of the western hemisphere
  • 2
    or the Amer·i·cas play
    \-kəz\
    the lands of the western hemisphere including North, Central, & S. America & the W. Indies
  • 3
    United States of America

Now definition #2 is a whole lot closer to what I learned in grade school, which as I recall also included Canada.  I  also consulted my nephew’s girlfriend who is also a journalism major, and asked her to provide me with the correct useage according the AP guidelines which she tells me is what reporters live by. According to her( my new favorite guru!) the correct breakdown is the Caribbean, Central America, Latin America, North America, South America, and West Indies, and when speaking of the United States, then that’s what should be used. CNN, are you (and all of the media outlets, really) paying attention? Or perhaps I should ‘speak’ in the current vernacular of @CNN, or include their hashtag, #CNN. In any case,  what gives us the right to such casual appropriation of the word “America”? I will admit, I’ve been guilty of it as well when I say “I’m an American”, although that is true, in the larger context. However when the fourth estate uses the word America interchangeably with United States, that IS incorrect, and I might argue even somewhat arrogant.

Isn’t it possible – even likely – that residents of South America, Jamaica, Puerto Rico or Canada would like to be able to say they are American? (Feel free to weigh in, my Canadian friend!) And by definition, they can, because after all, Brazil is part of South America, Canada a part of North America. And doesn’t the media have an obligation to not only use words correctly, but also to educate?  Incorrect use of the word is misleading and uninformed, as well as showing an egocentric cultural bias. Even a very popular television program running on FX has appropriated the label and uses it to refer to the people of the United States.web_largecoverart_series_the-americans_270x398 The Americans is about Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings, two Soviet intelligence agents posing as a married couple to spy on the American government during the cold war. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great show, I love tripping back to the 80’s, the chemistry between real life couple Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys is palpable, and the writing is fantastic, but again, using the phrase to describe people of the US is correct only by the default definition that’s become accepted over time. 

I realize that our language changes with the passage of years, and the generally accepted definition of a word can change as well. “Gay” is a great example. There was a time when it  meant happy, now the most common definition refers to sexual orientation. (Not passing judgment here, it was just the quickest example that came to mind.) However, altering the definition of a word to suit our cultural bias implies an elitism that is inappropriate.

There’s one final point to be made here. If you agree that there is some truth to this, that those who live not only in North America, but South America, the Carribbean, the West Indies, Latin America and Central America also have the right to call themselves Americans, then perhaps you’ll see the absurdity and irony in the recent rhetoric around “building a wall” and “making America great again”. Think about it for a moment, it’ll come to you.