Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr. (+13694) 11 months ago

On this 4th of July, I am feeling conflicted about many things.

I am conflicted about my moralism. I recognize my moralism is a disease of my personality, (and catholic upbringing) which can only be managed, never cured. I sometimes hate I can’t simply be and enjoy being, but have to think, sometimes deeply, about the meaning of the day.

I am conflicted about the jingoism of the day. The bravado with which Americans carry on is largely unnecessary and embarrassing.

I am conflicted about our founding documents from which our jingoism originates. The Declaration of Independence did not occur in a vacuum. It was the product of the thought and debate of the day. Much of the rationale comes from Common Sense Written by Thomas Paine. Thomas Paine is the Alex Jones of Infowars “fame” of his day. In its time, Common Sense was a radical document. In Common Sense, Paine makes the argument for building a Navy. He goes into elaborate detail about the costs. As a final justification, he states, “To unite the sinews of commerce and defence is sound policy; for when our strength and our riches play into each other's hand, we need fear no external enemy”. The jingoism is baked into the rationale for the original “Brexit”.

I am conflicted by the language and attitude found in the Declaration of Independence regarding the Native Americans. Among the complains lodged against King George is this “gem”, “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.” From that day, Native Americans have been “treaty-ed” to death with disregard, disrespect, and despicable acts of hatred. The “independence” we flaunt comes at the expense of the death, destruction, and outright theft of resources from Native Americans.

As an example, in 1880, Secretary of the Interior Henry Teller developed what came to be known as the Religious Crimes Code. This code provided guidelines to Indian Agents to end all tribal dances and feasts. The code banned Indian ceremonies and destroyed sacred objects. Those who disobeyed were threatened with imprisonment and/or the withholding of treaty rations. In other words, you would starve to death on the rez if you didn’t obey.

We should be ashamed at our treatment of these people. I have never met a Native American I would consider “savage”. I honestly don’t understand why or how any Native could celebrate “Independence Day”. The fact some do demonstrates the strength of their character. Yet, my understanding of this remains conflicted

I am conflicted by our not pursuing reconciliation with England. It is interesting to contemplate what our country would be like if the signers of the Declaration had pursued reconciliation or we had lost the revolutionary war. We have only to look to Canada, Australia, or New Zealand to get a glimpse of how the world might be different. There would have been fewer wars. We likely wouldn’t be intruding into other countries to extract resources to fuel our military complex. The world might be at peace. While Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have had their struggles, they have had much less impact on the natural and social resources of the world.

I am conflicted by the national political discussion, which seems to mirror the events and rhetoric leading to the Declaration. We have too many voices invested in extreme ideas, which will result in plowing and plundering what few resources that remain. The planet has paid a hefty price for the United States of America’s Declaration of Independence. Our pride and prejudice have taken an immense toll.

And yet, oddly the fact that I am still conflicted gives me hope we can learn from the past, right the wrongs to the extent possible, and focus our efforts spreading kindness, empathy, and mercy to the downtrodden. Americans need to rid themselves of the jingoistic rhetoric and walk more humbly. We need to adopt a spirit of interdependence on one another. Interdependence and inclusion of all in the larger community and tribe of humankind should be our focus. Interdependence should be the focus of our celebration. Not the red, white, and blue bloviating, bluster, and jingoism of the past.
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