Today is the Fourth of July. It is supposed to be a time of celebration for Americans, a celebration of not only our independence from Great Britain (when news of the Declaration of Independence’s signing reached George Washington, he was entrenched in New York City, awaiting the British assault with an army that was uncertain what it was fighting for), but for what we hold so dear today, the Declaration’s assertion of individual rights, that all men are created equal.
Abraham Lincoln wrote a paean of praise to the Declaration’s author in 1859:
All honor to Jefferson – to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecaste, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, and so to embalm it there, that today and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling block to the very harbingers of reappearing tyranny and oppression.
Whether Jefferson knew what he was doing when he inserted the abstract truth of the preamble (and debate continues), today we are left to think, “if only the Constitution were a stumbling block.” It has proven to be anything but to conservative demagogues, who praise it while trampling it underfoot.
The Fourth has become instead a time of mourning. Good news is hard to come by in this late afternoon of empire and more precious than gold. If you thought the War on Women was bad previously, it has gotten much, much worse. The Supreme Court has decided in contravention of the Constitution that not only are all of us not equal – namely women – but that NONE of us are equal to a corporation, an obscene concept that never occurred to the Founding Fathers.
As we go into the Fourth of July weekend, we are told we should thank Ted Nugent for our freedoms as he “‘we the people[s]’ on with all [he’s] got.” His “rugged individual independence” and manly “‘we the people’ hell-raising duties,” he writes at World Net Daily, are all that is keeping America together.
If grilled food on the 4th makes the mouth water like nothing else, I cannot imagine anything less appetizing than the Nugentian ego. I cannot consume that. I will stick to something more genuinely American than Nugent’s racist demagoguery – potato salad.
What should prey on Americans’ minds this summer is not only global warming and the spector of war, but the thought that it is almost certainly only a matter of time until corporations, having won personhood and religion, gain the right to vote – not through buying elections as they do currently – but outright voting. And you can be certain too that a corporation will have more votes than you or I.
There are so many issues before us this summer that it is impossible to put them in any particular order. As I sit down to write, a few come to mind immediately:
We are being besieged by Republicans who would rather destroy America than let it be destroyed (they say) by Democrats.
We have Maine’s Republican governor, Paul LePage, has even met with members of a domestic terrorist group which has killed six police officers since 2000, yet Fox News can’t stop talking about Bill Ayers and Barack Obama.
We have the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), which was meant to protect vulnerable minority religions, being used as a club for the world’s largest religion, Christianity, to beat down those very same minority religions.
Obscenely then, the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling will now be used to metaphorically burn gays at the stake because they don’t do what Christians want them to do. Arguments for this entirely unnecessary law are disingenuous at best, and nobody seriously believes the Supreme Court would have ruled as it did had Hobby Lobby’s owners been Muslim.
If any of this makes sense to you, raise your hand.
If John Adams did not say (and there is no evidence that he did outside of a Broadway musical), “I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace; that two are called a law firm; and that three or more become a Congress!” then he should have.
As Marci A. Hamilton. chair in public law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, writes in an op-ed for the New York Times,
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act should be repealed because it is unconstitutional, unprincipled and a sword believers gladly wield against nonbelievers.
That’s common sense Thomas Paine could have wrapped his head around.
Once upon a time – in the medieval world and into the early modern era – dynastic rights were, writes historian Lauro Martines, “somehow embedded in ‘natural law'” and even in “divine” law, an attitude epitomized by Charles V, who insisted that “all kingdoms and territories” were “given to him by God.”  Powerful men can convince themselves of anything if it means a continuation of their power.
King George III, Thomas Paine’s “Royal Brute of Britain,” whose gilded statue on Bowling Green Washington’s soldiers tore down when they were told of the Declaration of Independence, was of the same frame of mind, insisting that monarchy was essential to liberty, an idea that the ancient Romans of the Republic would have rejected out of hand.
Our Republicans of today are less wise than those Romans, and remind us of nothing so much as the kings of the 16th century, those of “Spain, France, Sweden and England,” Catholic and Protestant alike, who believed that “the wrong religious view was treason.” This is the message we hear trumpeted today from the Religious Right.
As we know, the Founding Fathers turned his paradigm on its head and ran with it, never looking back. They would still be running had Republicans not thrown the wall of corporate personhood in their path.
Now, corporations have turned it on its head again, insisting it is from them all political power derives, and what power they can afford, they have a natural right to. The Supreme Court seems inclined to agree. Money talks. They have money, the American people do not, because the Republicans have ensured that the corporations have our money.
And if corporations are metaphorically disemboweling our democracy, the Religious Right’s Culture War is doing no less: In the Thirty Years War, monotheistic Christians did what monotheistic Jews had done in Old Testament times, and disemboweled pregnant women for God. God, unsurprisingly did not intervene, yet today’s Religious Right insists the Great Heavenly Disemboweler will intervene to stop abortion. Apparently, only God and his followers – at his real or imagined command – can abort fetuses.
We are under siege this July Fourth. We can only resist with our love of liberty – for it is love of liberty that is the beating heart of liberalism – while we face the specter of a yawning status quo that has become a sort of black hole to all our dreams and aspirations, drawing us inexorably back to the superstition-ridden world of the 13th century, back when the idea of a free thought was treason.
 Lauro Martines, Furies: War in Europe 1450-1700, Bloomsbury Press, 2013, 98.
 Joseph J. Ellis, Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence. Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.
 Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy, The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire. Yale University Press, 2013, 22.
 Martines (2013), 226.