___The colonies revolted for any number of reasons. Perhaps the most prominent among them was the fact the rich and the mercantile classes did not like the tax policy of the Parliament in London. (sound familiar?) The colonies were being taxed to pay for a war. They were denied access to new lands secured by that war. (access to new land meant access to new wealth)...They were being taxed so that British goods would be more profitable and to force them to essentially buy British. They didn't like the monetary and political policies of the central government in London and felt that they were being denied rights that they as Englishmen were entitled to under law.
___Thomas Jefferson sat in an upper room near Independence Hall in Philadelphia and penned the now sacred words that included phrases like "...endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness..." and the equally sacred idea that "...all men are created equal".
__Are we more free this year than we were last year? I hope the answer is "yes", but the jury is still out. We have a new President and a new Attorney General who pledged to reverse course after eight years os a frontal assault on all of our liberties. In the eight years of the Bush Administration, every measure of freedom and independence showed how much we lost in the battle of liberty vs. a central government. First amendment guarantees about the right to assembly, free speech, freedom of religion and belief, all suffered from everything that the Patriot Act to the Office of Faith Based Initiatives (funneling money to regressive religious organizations which discriminated and persecute those they disagreed with). During the last eight years, Congress suspended the "Posse Comitatus" laws which prevented the use of the military in law enforcement activities (this in direct contradiction of one of the central complaints the colonists had with the crown of using the military to enforce hated tax laws). Two hundred thirty-three years ago we threw off the yoke of tyranny; and yet in the last eight years we saw a President and Vice President who believed that they could ignore all laws and treaties under the guise of being Commander In Chief during a time of war (undeclared war). We watched Congress pass laws enabling the government to secretly break into your house, bug and spy on your computers without a warrant or having to inform you. Massive data mining sights were set up to listen to your phone calls, read your e-mail and watch where you go on the Internet; and when this was discovered Congress gave immunity to the companies that facilitated this frontal assault on the Fourth Amendment.
__Since September 11th 2001, our nation has turned a blind eye to a central government that kidnapped it's own citizens and put them in prison with no opportunity to defend themselves from charges never filed with lawyers they were denied. A frightened Congress even suspended the right to habeas corpus. A frightened populace turned their heads when people were tortured in their name and the torturers were let off the hook because "...they were just following orders". Local and federal law enforcement infiltrated and spied on anti-war groups and peace organizations in violation of federal law (Oh no, that's right, Congress allowed that too). Things got so bad that we couldn't even find out who was visiting the White House because the Secret Service refused to release the records.
___While our liberty was under direct frontal assault, our pursuit of happiness took big hits as well. As more and more de-regulation took effect, the corporate media grew with fewer companies owning and controlling more and more of what we watched, listened to, and read. Free market competition has almost ceased to exist as bigger and bigger media monopolies stride across the land. Large swaths of the American people hear only one-sided political tirades in their homes and cars each day as the corporate media tries to sell us what we don't want and won't tell us what we need to know. As millions of Americans face joblessness, homelessness, and hopelessness due to the economic meltdown precipitated in the last eight years; can we look around this country and it's 233rd birthday and say we are better able to pursue happiness than we were last year?
___I said the jury is still out even as we celebrate our birthday. Some signs are encouraging and others are not. It is encouraging to look at the first African-American President. It is encouraging that he is promising to reverse many of the policies and practices of the previous eight years. It is encouraging that unlike the Great Depression, the government this time is acting to blunt the economic crisis and help the nation recover. It is encouraging that just last week the House passed a dramatic and sweeping energy bill to change the direction we have been pursuing. It is equally encouraging that we might see a revolution in health care with private insurance companies having to compete for the first time with a public option which would expand coverage and draw down costs. (not being scared to get sick would seem to be a pursuit of happiness, wouldn't it?) It is encouraging to see a foreign policy run by adults, a foreign policy with nuance and vision. We have to be encouraged by a President who can't be stampeded into over-reacting to events abroad.
___At the same time, this President promised a transparent Presidency; and yet he has taken the same position as the Bush Administration when it comes to everything from the release of pictures of torture to the release of White House visitor's logs. The President doesn't wish to investigate torture, rendition, or illegal spying and still we do not know which of these activities continue to this day. While setting a date to withdraw from Iraq, this President has committed more blood and treasure to Afghanistan with no definition of what would constitute victory nor any apparent exit strategy.
___Happy Birthday America! It is a grand experiment started by and for rich white men; but over time, an experiment that has enfranchised women and slaves, spread wealth by organizing and demanding a piece of the capitalist pie, and still represents the hope that people can change the direction of their government without having to shed blood or topple one and replace it with another(as occurred in Honduras just this week). The rich white men are still in power, but this birthday is a time to celebrate that we might rein them in some and restore some power to those who cherish life, appreciate true liberty, and refuse to pursue the happiness offered by Madison Avenue or Wall Street. What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org