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Boardman writes: "So the country is independent, and the people might celebrate that with happy satisfaction - if only the federal government hadn't slowly, steadily, and sometimes stealthily declared its independence from the people."

Ronald Reagan's Independence Day speech from 1986. (photo: WhiteHouse.gov)
Ronald Reagan's Independence Day speech from 1986. (photo: WhiteHouse.gov)



Ironies in the Fireworks

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

04 July 13

 

America's Independence Day Viewed Through a Lens from 1986

n the nostalgic spirit of the Fourth of July, here are some of the things that seemed important 27 years ago, at least to the editor of The Progressive:

  • President Reagan was promoting the Strategic Defense Initiative, a theoretical missile defense system referred to as "Star Wars" that continues to cost billions of dollars a year (well past $100 billion total - no one really knows how much) without useful accomplishment for the nation. Reagan promised that the program would make nuclear missiles "impotent and obsolete."
  • Military spending continued to remain larger and to grow faster than any other budget category worldwide.  There were roughly 15 wars being fought.

  • U.S. advisors and CIA personnel continued to train and work with government-supported death squads in El Salvador.

  • Conservative William F. Buckley was advised that "This is the moment for skillful diplomacy. We need to go a step further than to leave our bases in the Philippines at the mercy of democratic whimsy."

Names May Change to Protect the Guilty, But Corrupt Corporations Abide

  • Corporate corruption was a rising concern. The names in the news then included E.F. Hutton, W.R. Grace, General Dynamics, Raytheon, as well as less familiar outlaws like Rocco Enterprises (turkey processing), Kerr-McGee (nuclear waste processing), and A.H. Robins (purveyor of the lethal Dalkon Shield).

  • A cartoon in an ad for Mother Jones magazine showed a TV host holding out a glass to a guest and saying, "Perhaps a glass of water to wash down that incredible bunch of lies."

  • Democratic party "realists," reacting to the Reagan landslide of 1984, were re-shaping the party, arguing that it could no longer appeal to voters as a liberal party, much less a progressive one.

  • A review of Robert Heilbroner's book, "The Nature and Logic of Capitalism," noted that "questions of morality cannot intrude upon the drive to amass wealth.  The sacred and the secular - religion and science - serve to promote the capitalist logic of untrammeled growth.  Under the juggernaut lie two victims: nature and culture."

  • At the Federal prison in Marion, Illinois, the U.S. Justice department encouraged guards to use as much violence and brutality as they felt appropriate, claiming the prisoners there were the "most difficult and recalcitrant." That was a lie. The Bureau of Prisons continued to resist investigation by Congress or the Federal courts.

Missile Protests May Have Faded, But the Nuclear Missiles Abide

  • In Rhode Island, five anti-nuclear activists damaged missile tubes at the Electric Boat shipyard.  A state judge told them, "your acts are the first-cousin to the bomb-throwers, grenade-throwers, and airplane hijackers." The judge castigated a prosecutor for proposing a plea bargain and sentenced the five to the maximum of a $500 fine and a year in jail.
  • "Under Surveillance," the lead editorial by Edwin Knoll, commented on a ten-year-old lawsuit by 25 individuals and organizations who claimed that authorities spied on them, kept dossiers on then, and disrupted their lawful activities.  The claim was true and the court awarded them, collectively, $306,250.

  • Another editorial described Reverend Paul Kabat, who was serving a 10-year sentence for damaging a missile silo hatch near Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. Reverend Kabat wrote an article for The Progressive. The magazine with his article, mailed to the prison, came back stamped "NOT ACCEPTABLE." After The Progressive complained, the warden said it was a mistake by a new staff person.
  • In a story about the cross-country trucking of radioactive waste, by Samuel H. Day Jr., there was this sub-head: "The Government's fixation - secrecy as its first defense against nuclear terrorists - puts the public at risk of contact with radioactive, explosive matter."

  • Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan were in the early stages of discussing ways to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons.

Few Recognized Climate Change in 1986, But It, Too, Abides

Close to half the people alive in America today were not alive in 1986 or have no meaningful memory of the time. An equal proportion, but likely not all the same Americans, are "certain God exists," and a much greater percentage is affiliated with a religion.

So what does Independence Day mean to Americans today? The United States has been fully independent from the English crown since 1791 and there's no danger of losing that independence to any other power now or in the near future, and there almost never has been such a danger.

So the country is independent, and the people might celebrate that with happy satisfaction - if only the federal government hadn't slowly, steadily, and sometimes stealthily declared its independence from the people. Across the political spectrum, people despair of bringing the government under control again, if it ever was.

The Power Structure May Keep a Low Profile, But It Abides Most of All

Celebrating Independence Day is more than a little ironic for most Americans, especially those who perceive that the people have been colonized by their own government.

On July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, which ends with these words:

That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

And so on Independence Day, we celebrate the words and thoughts of this declaration that created free and independent states. More obliquely, we also celebrate the creation of free and independent white men. And we mostly take some pride in the eventual freedom and independence that others have slowly achieved more recently.

All the same, we like to celebrate the way the Declaration's second paragraph begins: "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."

Emotionally, that often seems to be the end of the celebration, especially for folks who venerate liberty and individual freedoms.

For them, the very next sentence is something of a downer, as it begins: "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted …"

The American adventure was always about government, not personal freedom. It was always about changing government if we didn't like it, not getting rid of government. For awhile it was about the governments of free and independent states, but 15 years of that was enough to persuade a critical mass of the people to adopt a Constitution in 1791 designed with unintended irony to keep those states under control, while securing the rights of the people. Eventually.


William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

 

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+27 # MainStreetMentor 2013-07-04 09:19
What an absolutely marvelous article! True as the sun rising each day.
 
 
+5 # roger paul 2013-07-04 12:05
Quoting MainStreetMentor:
What an absolutely marvelous article! True as the sun rising each day.


I hate to break the news to you but the sun doesn't rise nor does it set....like many things these days, we hold on to our illusions. However, it is a good article.
 
 
+4 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-07-04 16:42
I learned about political power when I attended a major university. My roommate's father was lobbyist for General Motors Co. His father would visit politicians and "negotiate" a deal to get that politician to vote for an idea General Motors wanted on the books. How it worked. Lobbyist:"next Monday a safety issue will come up for the automobile industry and we need your vote." Politician:"Wha t do I get in return?" Lobbyist:"we have a something that will make you look great with your constituents. You are a freshman senator.In your first year of office, you will have a bill, of course endorsed by you. We will save you all the work of writing the bill as it will be fully written by our attorneys. Super markets now use but will no longer be able to use red lights in their meat cases." Freshman senator:"I don't see why outlawing meat case red lights will make me look good." Lobbyist:"Whoa, hold on. Super markets have been artificially trying to make meat look better than it is since the invention of the refrigerated meat display case. Most all super markets now and have been displaying meat that is maybe a bit too old, and which which you probably would not buy if it were not for the fresh red look the colored fluorescent lights give the meat." Freshman politician,"I'm in." Lobbyist:"I knew you would be. We can count on your vote then?" Freshman politician:"You bet." Moral of the story. Very few bills are actually written by the senators, politicians who endorse those bills.
 
 
+3 # Malcolm 2013-07-05 06:42
Quoting roger paul:
[quote name="MainStreetMentor"]What an absolutely marvelous article! True as the sun rising each day.[/

I hate to break the news to you but the sun doesn't rise nor does it set....like many things these days, we hold on to our illusions. However, it is a good article.


And I hate to break the news to YOU, but the sun DOES rise and set. It all depends on the Frame of Reference.
 
 
0 # Feral Dogz 2013-07-05 07:21
Quoting Malcolm:
Quoting roger paul:
[quote name="MainStreetMentor"]What an absolutely marvelous article! True as the sun rising each day.[/

I hate to break the news to you but the sun doesn't rise nor does it set....like many things these days, we hold on to our illusions. However, it is a good article.


And I hate to break the news to YOU, but the sun DOES rise and set. It all depends on the Frame of Reference.

Way to hold on to your illusions Malcolm. Does your frame of reference also hold that the earth is flat and was "created" by a super-natural being?
 
 
+36 # wantrealdemocracy 2013-07-04 10:17
It is time to rewrite our Constitution, and this time it should be written by the people, not just rich property owning white men. Other nations have done this and we must so this in order to have a any democracy in our nation. The sad fact is that our democracy has been destroyed by the actions of our Congress. We no longer have we the right to liberty and justice nor the pursuit of happiness.

Our elected officials are NOT our 'representative s'. Those corrupt creatures in Congress don't give any attention to the opinion of the people of this nation.
 
 
+9 # grandma lynn 2013-07-04 19:57
Look how many of those "representative s" are pronouncing Manning and Snowden as guilty and recommending punishments - seeming oblivious to rule-of-law and that courts with peer jurists over time should be making judgment based on deliberation / evidence. They not only are not representative, but also forget about separation of powers.
 
 
+2 # Malcolm 2013-07-05 06:46
Quoting grandma lynn:
Look how many of those "representatives" are pronouncing Manning and Snowden as guilty and recommending punishments - seeming oblivious to rule-of-law and that courts with peer jurists over time should be making judgment based on deliberation / evidence. They not only are not representative, but also forget about separation of powers.

Right on, grandma. But SO 20th century. As a grandma, you're doubtless old enough to remember that old axiom about "innocent until PROVEN guilty.

That concept was originally tossed out with the concept of "RICO LAWS"

I miss the good old days...
 
 
+16 # Milarepa 2013-07-04 10:35
What a sad, lost-looking couple on that picture!
 
 
+8 # grandma lynn 2013-07-04 19:58
Once during Reagan's term the spoof newspaper, Not the Boston Globe, ran a front-page photo of Reagan with his eyes closed and the caption: "Been asleep three days - not to worry!"
 
 
+29 # Vardoz 2013-07-04 10:38
We have a declaration of independence that people fought and died for so that generations that would follow would be able to live with freedom and justice in a moral nation that lived by the rule of law. All that is under attack now by those in power who want to make life harder for us.

"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.--Tha t to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

If only those who we elected to represent us were interested in this document that is now at the bottom of the list of priorities.
 
 
+13 # whywonder 2013-07-04 11:09
Well spoken indeed. I doubt however if the framers of the constitution ever envisioned this document spending the next 200 year being "Interpreted" by a Supreme Court that has become all to political. There mission has failed when they allowed themselves to be appointed for life by one side or the other of our political spectrum. Another words, we the people have lost out to the politicos. In the document cannot be updated due to politics but it is abused daily by those same people. "If only those who we elected to represent us were interested in this document that is now at the bottom of the list of priorities". Good quote and better idea.
 
 
+24 # curmudgeon 2013-07-04 11:26
The quote from Heilbronner's book says it all!

""questions of morality cannot intrude upon the drive to amass wealth. The sacred and the secular - religion and science - serve to promote the capitalist logic of untrammeled growth. Under the juggernaut lie two victims: nature and culture.""
 
 
+8 # Kathymoi 2013-07-04 16:16
and human life. Humanity itself.
 
 
+15 # Michael Lee Bugg 2013-07-04 12:05
Despite common mythology,the mission of the federal government from the beginning was and is to protect the interests of the wealthiest Americans and the warmongers! Mission Accomplished!
 
 
+9 # tomtom 2013-07-04 12:27
It's ludicrous now and it was back when Reagan first proposed a shield to protect us from incoming missiles; anyone can rent an apartment and build a nuclear weapon downtown anywhere and detonate it from within our nations borders. Hello!
 
 
+7 # Kathymoi 2013-07-04 16:15
Even though we have a government today, we have a government that serves the richest, the owners and CEO's of billion dollar multinational corporations. It appears that we have a government, but we have rule of the richest, with government enforcing and making into law whatever suits the rich and their fortune making corporate interests. The purpose of government, which ideally would be to protect the people from tyranny of the rich or of any group of outsized power (say, a religious group. It's not that we need to get rid of government. We need a government that can and will do its job. Otherwise, without government, we would have even harsher rule of the rich over us immediately, with no constraints of any kind. We need a government of the people, to protect us from the interests of the richest people.
 
 
+4 # robcarter.vn 2013-07-04 19:07
Rob reminds: all these RSN big wig VIP writers are leftists who support Democrats against Republicans for decades, yet now they are thanks to NSA and whistle-blowers turned full force against the Democrats shift to Republican Capitalism right of center. Beware a new Socialist Party must begin in USA and now is the time.
 

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