Looking back, looking ahead, on a life of preaching, teaching, parenting, coupling, running, performing, living.
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
My fellow Americans,
I'm not in America right now. I woke up this morning in Antwerp, and will go to bed in a few minutes in Amsterdam. Tomorrow night, I'll begin my journey to Ghana. Last week, I was in Britain with my beloved wife. During our travels, we encountered a number of non-Americans who wanted to know how we feel about our current president. We talked with them of being ashamed, embarrassed, and happy to be away for awhile. This morning, when my phone reminded me at 9:00 local time (midnight back home in Portland) that it was Independence Day, I was astonished: I'd almost forgotten it was July 4, usually one of my favorite holidays. I spent the day doing my best to continue forgetting this was a day to celebrate America, a country I fear may never come back from the horrible place it is being dragged by Donald Trump and his minions. This evening, enjoying some beer in a Dutch bar, I encountered a young American who was having a European adventure, and who offered that the best thing to do on this Independence Day was to remember the original one--and drink enough beer to forget what's become of our country.
I didn't drink as much as he did, but I did feel motivated to take his other advice. Coming back to my Air BnB, I called up the text of the Declaration of Independence, and was astonished at how well Thomas Jefferson's text still speaks--and how much of it applied, with very little adjustment, to the feelings I know I share with millions of other Americans who have turned out to protest abuse upon abuse by this regime. And then I did something I never did in all my days of preaching: rather than interpret the sacred text, I rewrote it. Some of it I left exactly as I found it. Some I left out (there's a regrettable clause about how King George had recruited native savages to aid him in oppressing the colonists, and the parts about shanghaiing American sailors seemed irrelevant). Most I reworded to refer more specifically to our present tyrant; and I also added a few specific complaints (leaving out, I know, many more that could also be in here) that seemed especially apt.
So here it is: a Declaration for these troubled times. If you'd like to share it, you have my permission.
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for the people of democratic nation to rise up against a President whose election, despite the interference of foreign interests and a result that ran counter to the popular vote by a significant margin, nevertheless was consistent with the laws of that nation, a decent respect to the opinions of humankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to seek his impeachment.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among people, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any branch of the government becomes destructive of these ends through refusal to adhere to universally acceptable norms of civic responsibility, it is the right and obligation of the people to alter, restrict, or abolish it, and to institute new leadership, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that branches of government long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience has shown that humankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by removing the elected officials who committed those evils. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to elect new guardians for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these citizens; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to remove the duly elected President through impeachment. The history of the current President of the United States is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has by executive order overturned policies and regulations, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has called on the legislators of his party to overturn laws promoting the general welfare.
He has instructed the law enforcement branch he oversees to remove children from the parents of refugees, and when mandated by federal judges to cease this policy, has neglected to attend to that mandate, seeking instead to hold the children hostage until such time as the refugees agree to be deported.
He has so overwhelmed the mass media with scandals, offenses, hypocrisy, and outrageous remarks that the people have grown confused and fatigued, and in many cases are incapable of responding to any of his multitudinous violations.
He has dismissed, pushed out, and disbanded advisers and advisory committees that sought to mediate the extremes of his improvisational political outbursts.
He has sought to disenfranchise voters for ridiculous, unconstitutional, and scurrilous reasons, requiring of them forms of identification, or requirements for casting a vote, known to be far more difficult for the poor and members of minority groups more likely to vote for the opposition party.j
He has sabotaged diplomatic and economic ties with nations that have been trusted allies of the United States for the better part of a century, and has sought to improve relations with autocrats and tyrants who regularly and publicly violate universally accepted human rights and are guilty of mass murder of their own citizens.
He has endeavored to prevent the continued expansion of the population of the United States through immigration, particularly of persons of color from nations he has referred to as "shitholes," levying upon them such legal requirements as to render naturalization virtually impossible.
He has obstructed the administration of justice by calling upon his Justice Department to opposed laws that expand and defend the rights of marginalized citizens and immigrants.
He has, with the willing assent of his party, appointed judges who will not agree to defend Constitutional amendments that expand and defend the rights of marginalized citizens and immigrants, and has nominated jurists with little or no judicial experience motivated entirely by his predilection for heavily biased cable news.
He has appointed to his Cabinet individuals with no experience or knowledge in the areas of their responsibility, some of whom have abused and exploited their offices for their own personal gain at great expense to the federal treasury and, by extension, to the voters who are their true employers.
He has sought to transform the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency into his own personal battalion of stormtroopers, and has sought to use the United States army as a police force against immigrants.
He has cooperate with American fascists and white supremacists, seeking through false equivalency to excuse their inflammatory and violent actions.
He has excused and even encouraged the abuses police officers regularly commit against African- and Hispanic-Americans, and has challenged verdicts against those officers who have committed murder by mortally wounding or slaying unarmed persons of color.
He has dismissed trade pacts that have enhanced American productivity and job growth, preferring instead to negotiate bilateral "deals" himself, resulting in corporate decisions that have or will cost Americans thousands of jobs.
He has pushed through his Congress a tax "reform" that favors only the wealthiest of Americans, while leading to tax increases for the rest and ballooning the federal deficit by a trillion dollars.
He has sought to strip federal subsidies and benefits from municipalities and states that have chosen to shelter and defend immigrants against the abuses of his Justice Department.
He has abdicated government by reducing departments to a bare skeleton of civil servants, stripping power from those that work to promote human welfare in ways he opposes, and ignoring the abuses of Cabinet Secretaries who serve his anarchic agenda, while seeking the ouster of those who would hold him accountable to the nation.
He has overturned and dismissed regulations that would protect our oceans, streams, and forests, reduce our dependence on carbon-based energy production that poisons our air and contributes to climate change, and will result in mass extinction of entire species, not to mention forced migration of countless millions of human beings away from coastlines that recede and parts of the planet that become too hot to sustain human life, insisting instead on promoting these obsolete energy sources for the sake of a handful of jobs.
In every stage of these oppression we have petitioned for redressed in the most humble terms, exercising our Constitutional rights to assemble and speak out against his excesses and abuses. He has ignored all our pleas or, when he does choose to respond, has ridiculed them, playing only to the small minority who are his most rabid base voters.
A President whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant is unfit to be the leader of a free people.
Nor have we been wanting in attentions to our Republican brothers and sisters. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their Congress to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances by which we came to be a nation for which e pluribus unum--from the many, one--is our highest calling. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have begged them by virtue of the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which inexorably trend toward the dissolution of the people called Americans, and the subjection of the diverse majority to the whims of the conservative white minority. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity of demanding the impeachment and removal of their President, and hold them, as we hold the rest of humankind, enemies in their support of tyranny, friends only when they decide to resist the monster they call Mr. President.
We, therefore, the citizens of the United States of America, appealing to the supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of this nation, solemnly declare that we are absolved from all allegiance to this false and perfidious President, and that all political authority he has ought to be totally dissolved through impeachment; and that the states in which we live have full power to conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and do all other acts and things which independent states are Constitutionally guaranteed the right to do, regardless of the demands of our false and perfidious President. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.