from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

AJuly 4th Covenant 

is the title of piece by Marcus Raskin put out today courtesy of TomPaine, here

It begins as follows:

July 4th 2005 will surely be known to future generations as a period of terror and insecurity for Americans who wish nothing more than a consecration to a set of purposes and ideals that seem ambiguous and contradictory.

Caught in a war not of the citizenry's choosing, but that was an outgrowth of government deception, moral and political blindness--and even criminality--the people search for a meaning that will capture the sensibility of our better selves. This feature is there, but increasingly hard to find because of the hubris, war and selfishness that plague certain elements of the nation.

While I encourage you as always to read the entire piece, which is short, I offer a bit more below.

Raskin goes on to talk about the idea that American history is unfortunately organized around a principle

predicated on raw power wrapped in claims of supremacy over other cultures and nations. And it has been sustained in its practices by two elementary ideas. You are either for us or against us. The nation is bound by the unity which sees and organizes threats to itself.

That is to say, the world is divided into good versus evil, we versus they.

He explores this idea further, talking about the idea of permenent organization for war, an idea used by certain "realists" as necessary to maintain our way of life, even if it distorts (as Eisenhower had warned us) our economy against what is truly the common good.

In other words the nation is defined as a way of life that externalizes enemies and asserts that its survival--whether economic, social or political--must expand lest the nation contract and die. For some, this "enemy-other" framework of public policy in a nation is highly competitive in daily life, organized around games, business, acquisitiveness and grades. Furthermore, it is most successful where it includes a combination of irrationality and fear of not being Number One in the "natural" order, defined through force and a touch of fraud.

Raskin talks about hnow this leads to ideas of racial superiority and fear of "others" that they may overtake us so that we are no longer "number 1", a fear that was directed at the Japanese a few years ago and is now being directed against the Chinese.

He aruges that there is another side to America, one far more noble than that described above.  It stems from generosity and justice, both economic and social, and has traditionally welcomed others to our shores:

It is a society which makes room for the young and protects the old. It recognizes the rights of all people and it does so through its education and its laws, even for those not accorded citizenship. In short, it's not a society that is insecure, that seeks to shove the formerly excluded into closets of despair. It is not a careless nation, claiming its military prowess is necessary to destroy other nations in order to save them, or that poor nations should take our waste to survive. It is not a nation that believes its willingness to destroy the world through military science is the apex of rationality or God's purpose.

It is exceedingly hard to extract from this very well written document.  Let me offer here another brief paragraph pertinent to some of what we have seen from our current (mis-)administration, describing something of what it means to be a free society:

This free society is not a bully. It is respected for what it builds, not destroys. It is respected for the social hand it extends to others who are accorded economic, legal and social rights through international documents which the free nation does not attempt to subvert.

Rightly or wrongly, Raskin sees the nation as a collective expression of individual responsibility.  He closes by writing:

Thus, the nation is a projection of our personal responsibility and respect for other people that manifests the bond between the healthy and the sick, the prosperous and the hungry, the strong and the weak. This responsibility attaches between the healthy and the sick as a bond of that shared humanity.

This is the July 4 covenant of progressive liberals, and of a free people.

Any people whose view of those that matter, about whom they care, is narrowly defined, will, IMHO, ultimately become paranoid and violent towards the vast majority of those defined as "other."  This will include not only those from other nations, but those of other colors, ethnic groups, religion, sexual orientation, or any way one can find of diving humans into "Us" versus "Them."  While one might not agreem with all the details expressed by Raskin, I believe this piece presents us with a slightly different opportunity to reflect on what it should mean to be an American.

I would be interested to see what you think.  Read the piece and offer your comments below.

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