Tom Morello, "This Land Is Your Land"

>> Wednesday, July 04, 2012





I don't know anymore, who this land was made for. I think, though, there was an era where the idea of this land was a bit bigger than the land was. I don't know if that's still true anymore.

The guys who founded this country: they were rich guys, you know? They were lawyers and planters and bankers and such; they weren't scruffy Ordinary Joes, for better or worse. Smart guys, yeah, but human. Political dilettantes and amateur philosophers, guys who had a lot of great abstract ideas for what a country could be, but lacking the strength and wisdom to carry their convictions all the way past the goal line. The guy who wrote this--

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, --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.


--owned and fucked slaves, and the guys who signed it with him would go on to establish a republican oligarchy in which the voice of the masses would be vitiated by being confined entirely to an inferior chamber of the legislature with few powers; the Senate and President would, in the original scheme of things, be chosen by those who rose to the top of the state power structures (the governors and state houses) and the Supreme and lesser courts would be appointed by these most-elite-of-the-elite. They talked a good game, talking about democracy, but if you actually read the Constitution, turns out they didn't think much of the idea at all.

And, gods know, maybe they're right. You leave it to mobs to make decisions, lousy things happen. They say people can't get married if they're interracial gay (the modern issue--the interracial thing is so pre-1967, that ancient and murky age only five years before I was born); that women are too childish to make long-term decisions about their plumbing; that if you want to teach kids science, you better make sure you cover the widely-accepted, completely plausible, perfectly scientific theory that man was specially created either right before or right after all the other plants and animals were either placed in a Garden or invented on successive days; etc.

Except, you know, the founders weren't necessarily all that clever, either. Their splendid organizational attempt to provide for a national defense that couldn't be co-opted by a tyrant resulted almost directly in Washington, DC getting burned to the ground and Detroit surrendering to the British within around twenty years. And that wasn't the bad screw-up, right? Losing Detroit and having a foreign army raze the nation's capitol was nothing compared to how all the compromises designed to keep the northern and southern states from killing each other disintegrated in 1861, leading to the northern and southern states totally killing each other by the hundreds of thousands, jolly good show.

This all sounds quaint, no doubt. But the messed up military situation still hasn't really been corrected: we have a standing army, now, yes, but the Constitutional organization of it is so inefficient that modern Congresses simply give modern Presidents blank checks in the form of Authorizations For Use Of Military Force (AUMFs) or similar legislative acts (e.g. the Gulf Of Tonkin Resolution), and then we wring our hands about how unconstitutional it all is (especially when the Other Side has the authority) without even noticing the problem is really constitutional in the sense of being a problem with the Constitution itself. And as for the other matter I alluded to in the last paragraph: if you don't think we're still, on some basic level, fighting the American Civil War, wake up and pay attention. What do you think all this "states' rights" horseshit is, except an ongoing attempt to re-fight the Civil War to a different result in the courts or on The Hill instead of a battlefield; and if you don't think all the batshit crazy garbage about the President's black--excuse me, Kenyan--father and the deranged obsession in some quarters with his swarthiness--excuse me, "citizenship"--is completely unrelated to white slave-owning Southerners' fears that the men and women they brutalized and exploited would rise up and reenact the Haitian Revolution of 1791, well--I'm sorry, you're an idiot. The questions from some quarters about the President's legitimacy to lead this country are a multiplied product of American conservatives' belief that liberals are illegitimate governors (nobody could have voted for them--they'd have to believe something not-conservative and that would call their entire worldview to question) and American racists' belief that blacks at best have it in for whites and at worst are not-quite-human.

These are the reverberations of what those great Founding Fathers hath wrought.

And yet, there in the midst of it, is an idea--

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, --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.


--it's a good idea. I said something the other day about the space between our aspirations and our achievements; I confess, I think I borrowed the phrase from Gahan Wilson (and Cthulhu have mercy on our tender bits--he wasn't writing about constitutions and inspirational declarations of human dignity and liberty: he was writing about the titular character from Robot Monster; maybe I shouldn't have told you that). Somewhere in all that obsolete 18th Century dreck is a collection of noble sentiments that are timeless: that if we don't all have dignity, we ought to; that if we aren't all equal, we could be; that if we are hostages of a tyrant--a king, then; plutocrats, now--we don't have to be. (And here, in my despair, is where I look up from my dark desk, hair in my hands, and see there is, in fact, a shining sliver of light passing under the door into my closed, dark room.)

Happy Fourth Of July, people. I guess.





0 comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for commenting! Because of the evils of spam, comments on posts that are more than ten days old will go into a moderation queue, but I do check the queue and your comment will (most likely) be posted if it isn't spam.

Another proud member of the UCF...

Another proud member of the UCF...
UCF logo ©2008 Michelle Klishis

...an international gang of...

...an international gang of...
смерть шпионам!

...Frank Gorshin-obsessed bikers.

...Frank Gorshin-obsessed bikers.
GorshOn! ©2009 Jeff Hentosz

  © Blogger template Werd by Ourblogtemplates.com 2009

Back to TOP