Yesterday was Independence Day (The Fourth of July), a federal holiday that celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776.
The Declaration of Independence asserts that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Nevertheless, many people in our country have had to fight for equality and rights.
Slavery in the U.S. was officially abolished in 1865 by enactment of the13th Amendment to the Constitution. Women received the right to vote with the ratification of the 14th Amendment in 1920. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 60’s was aimed at outlawing discrimination against black Americans. The Gay Rights (LGBT) Movement is a civil rights movement that advocates equal rights for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals.
An interesting article posted on Salon asks “Is America more exceptional today than in 1776?”
American exceptionalism is the concept that the United States is exceptional when compared to other nations and is uniquely destined to bring democracy to the world. That notion of American exceptionalism was promoted by the nation's founders and earliest leaders. (See CNN article Where to Find Exceptional America )
But E.L. Doctorow (New York Times, April 28 Op-ed ) argues that to achieve unexceptionalism, the political ideal that would render the United States indistinguishable from the impoverished, traditionally undemocratic, brutal or catatonic countries of the world, do the following:
1. If you are a Supreme Court Justice, suspend the counting of ballots in a presidential election, appoint the candidate of your choice as president.
2. If you are the newly elected president, react to a terrorist attack by invading a non-terrorist country.
3. Using the state of war as justification, order secret surveillance of American citizens, data mine their phone calls and emails, make business, medical and public library records available to government agencies, perform illegal warrantless searches of homes and offices
4. Take to torturing terrorist suspects, here and abroad, in violation of the 8th Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits infliction of cruel and unusual punishment. Commit to indeterminate detention without trial those you decide are enemies. Trust that legislative supporters will eventually apply this policy to American citizens, too.
5. Suspend progressive taxation so that the wealthiest pay less proportionately than the middle class. See to it that the wealth of the country accumulates to a small fraction of the population so that the gap between rich and poor widens exponentially.
6. By cutting taxes and raising wartime expenditures, deplete the national treasury so that Congress, state and municipal legislatures cut back on domestic services, ensuring that there will be less money for education of the young, for government health programs, for care of veterans, for maintenance of roads and bridges, for free public libraries, etc.
7. Deregulate the banking industry so as to create a severe recession in which numerous people lose their homes and jobs.
8. Before you leave office, add to the Supreme Court justices like the ones who awarded you the presidency.
9. If you are one of the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, rule that corporations, like human beings, have the right under the First Amendment to express their political point of view. Do not acknowledge that corporations lack the feelings and values that define what it is to be human or that a corporation’s only purpose is to produce wealth, regardless of social consequences. The court’s decision will ensure tremendous infusions of corporate money into the political process and lead to election in national and state legislatures of majorities of de facto corporate lobbyists.
10. Given corporate control of legislative bodies, enact laws benefiting corporate interests.
11. Turn the running of state prisons over to private corporations whose profits increase with the increase in inmate populations.
12. When possible, treat immigrants as criminals.
13. Deplete and underfinance public schools and give the education of children over to private for-profit corporations.
14. Make college education unaffordable
15. Inject religious precepts into public policy so as to control women’s bodies
16. Enact laws prohibiting collective bargaining. Portray trade unions as un-American.
17. Enact laws restricting voting rights of possibly unruly constituencies
18. Propagandize against scientific facts that would affect corporate profits. Portray global warming as a conspiracy of scientists
19. Portray the federal government as unwieldy, bumbling, and shot through with elitists liberals
20. If you are a Supreme Court justice, decide that the police of any city, town, village have the absolute authority to strip-search any person whom they, for whatever reason, put under arrest.