Stand and Be Counted

 Courts, Gay Issues, Politics, Society  Comments Off on Stand and Be Counted
Jul 052011
 

 

There is a great tradition in the Northeast United States of annual town meetings. Important issues for the town are voted on by everyone attending (who is a legal voter in that town), and this is where the famous line, “stand and be counted” comes from. After everyone has spoken on the issue, they call on those in favor to “stand and be counted,” and this is how major community issues are handled.

We’ve just celebrated the day the Declaration of Independence was ratified. Those founding fathers did more than just vote, they pledged their lives and fortunes in defiance of the Crown. Note they not only said it, they affixed their signatures to the document…an act of treason.

Today arch-conservatives and christianists love to roll-out claims about what they believe the founders believed (see “Christian Nation” claims). But in Washington State the anti-gay forces have forgotten completely this most important act of courage.

After failing to pass an anti-gay marriage amendment, they went to court to have the names of the petition signers kept secret. Their laughable claim is that gay people will physically harm the signers.

There are many reasons the names are always made public, not the least of which is so people can be sure their name wasn’t added by someone else. Just as important should be one’s willingness to take responsibility for one’s actions and beliefs.

If you want to take rights away from a minority group with whom you disagree, have the courage of the founders. Stand and be counted.

Jul 042008
 

Today is a day or ironies. George Bush is visiting Thomas Jefferson’s beloved Monticello on this the 232nd anniversary of our declaration of independence from a king named George. As Jefferson warned that Americans would have to be ever on their guard against those who might turn the presidency into the tool of their “elected despotism,” I doubt he would be greeting Bush.

We live in a time where the very freedoms bought at so great a price by the founding fathers are being left in shreds. Dick Cheney has successfully convinced Americans they are safer with a “unitary executive.” How have American’s bought into this lie? This is the thing the founders were most interested in guarding against.

We have become a country comfortable with torture, willing to accept indefinite detention of both Citizens and non-citizens without benefit of habeas corpus, and we have come to believe we can trade our freedoms for security. We now have neither.

In another ironic twist, Jesse Helms, 86 year old retired Senator from North Carolina died today. All the pundits will take to the airwaves to talk of how Jesse Helms was a great American…a real patriot. Jesse Helms was neither, and will be someday acknowledged as the father of divisive politics in America. It is from Helms that political operatives learned how to use scapegoats and fear mongering to turn Americans against some enemy (even themselves) in order to further their own political aims.

Karl Rove perfected the technique, but Jesse Helms is the man who developed it. When the Soviet Union fell and Helms lost his primary enemy, he learned he could create an inside threat. First, it was gay people in general, then, as manna from God came AIDS, and Jesse could attack Gays as public health enemies who deserved what they got. Despite what you will read and hear, on this 4th of July, America lost not a patriot, but one of it’s greatest enemies.

Some find hope in the Obama candidacy. I hope it sparks a renewal of the American Spirit, but great damage has been done, and it will take much to reverse the decline of the great American Experiment. I hope he can inspire an American renewal, but my enthusiasm is tempered.

On this day when we pause to consider Patriotism, I find it being attacked on all sides. The first great precept of Patriotism is the right and obligation to question the leaders of government. The current government insists that to question them is to be unpatriotic. We squabble over what a person wears on his lapel, but I tell you that those who demand these superfluous shows are usually the least patriotic, but we take up their cause with enthusiasm.

Patriotism, true patriotism, is not found in a lapel pin, but in the soul. I find patriotism in the trembling hands of an American Veteran wearing his American Legion hat and proudly raising his hand in salute during the Presentation of The Colors. I know patriotism when I feel that chill run up my spine as I look at the flag flying in the mountain breeze against a brilliantly blue North Carolina sky while the ASU Marching Band plays the National Anthem. I see patriotism in the people who write their representatives and demand better from them.

On this day when we celebrate patriotism, I try to maintain hope, knowing it’s easier for me than for those founders 230 years ago as they took those tentative steps towards a brave new form of self-government. But we have traveled a long way from those innovative thoughts. Perhaps this generation doesn’t have the courage or strength for self-government, but I will continue to hope, I will continue to do what little I can, and I invite you to demand a return to the found ideals of America. The served us well for the first 200 years.