JOHN OSTRANDER: Fireworks
It’s America’s birthday and what better way to celebrate than with fireworks? Yeah, I know – the Fourth of July was yesterday but if your neighborhood is anything like mine, people have been setting things off since last weekend and will probably continue through this weekend. So let’s see if we can set off a few here.
I hold these truths to be self-evident.
Item: Democracy is a radical experiment and one that could still fail. The notion that all men – and, as we have come to understand it, all women – are created equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights was certainly a radical notion in a world where the right to rule came by birth or by force of arms. Instead, we maintained that People could, should, and had the right to govern themselves and the right of any government to rule rested within the consent of the People. That’s just crazy talk – or so much of the world in the late 1700s thought. That was chaos – anarchy. Heck, it scares a lot of people today and that includes our own citizens, a lot of whom would be more than willing to trade freedoms (well, certainly OTHER peoples’ freedoms) for a little more security for themselves and their own. In the overall scheme of things, folks, two hundred twenty five years is nothing. We blow it and it’ll just be noted as an interesting aberration.
And we’re really close to blowing it. Voting is a pain and we can’t be bothered to turn out in real numbers even for the Presidential elections; we abide rigged elections and voting machines; we let ourselves be led like lemmings by polls and attack ads.
I’m not a political innocent; I was raised in Mayor Richard J. Daley’s Chicago. I know the difference between political theory and political reality. We, the People, increasingly vote for appearances rather than bother to look at issues. We assume that, because America has been around for two hundred years, it will be forever. History says the odds are way against that. We are an experiment and the results are not yet in, folks.
Item: The Founding Fathers were themselves a bunch of radicals. Liberals. The conservatives of the time – Loyalists, a.k.a. Tories – supported King George III and, in fact, considered themselves English. Our Founding Fathers were, by Loyalists’ lights, all traitors and, if the Revolution had failed, would almost certainly have been hung as such. Lots of businessmen were opposed to the Revolution because it disrupted trade – commerce – and, then as now, that was where their true loyalties lay – in profit. Who does that sound like today?
Item: The Constitution is a flawed document and in that lies its strength. It’s not written in stone; it was meant to be amended and was early on, with what we now call the Bill of Rights. Little things such as Freedom of Speech, of Religion, and so on that got left out of the original document per se. Changing the Constitution isn’t easy and shouldn’t be but it was meant to adapt and change with the country and the times. I don’t much care for “strict constructionists” who believe the law means only what it says. They remind me of people who can quote the lyrics of a song but can’t sing the tune. The law should be interpreted.
Nor am I keen on those who claim to be interpreting the Founding Father’s intent. First of all, those who claim they can divine it are trying to read the minds of people long since dead. Secondly, the FF (Founding Fathers, not the Fantastic Four) were themselves flawed. They wrote slavery into the original document and I trust we’re all reasonably agreed that was a bad idea. At the very least, it made a mockery of one of the central concepts of the Declaration of Independence, the part where we said that all men were created equal. One of those “self-evident” truths that, I guess, was not so “self evident” to some and for which we, as a country, have paid and continue to pay such a terrible price. Finally, the country that the FF conceived was what we now designate as the Atlantic Seaboard and was an agrarian economy. That’s not who we are today. The Constitution needs to be interpreted by who we are now, respecting the Principles, the music, that lies behind it. The words are not sacrosanct; they are the means to an end. That end? To achieve a more perfect Union – check out the Preamble.
Item: This Administration – ANY Administration – is NOT America. Criticizing an Administration Is not disloyal; it is, in fact, the duty of every citizen. It is, in fact, a PATRIOTIC act – far more so than slapping a bumper sticker on your car. Handing any Administration carte blanche means abrogating, abandoning, our duties as citizens.
Item: Keep your Church out of my Government. Inserting one into the other works to the detriment of both. We’ve always looked to a separation of church and state and there have always been those who have wanted to slam the two back together. Unlike peanut butter cups, these are not two great tastes that taste great together. To begin with, whose notion of God do we shoehorn in? RC Jesus sure as hellfire ain’t the same as Southern Baptist Jesus. That’s always the big problem – folks who want more God in Government specifically want their IDEA of God in Government. Simplest solution? Do what the New Testament suggests and render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.
Item: You can support the troops and still criticize the Administration. Doing so does NOT cast aspersions on the troops. In this country, we expect the military to obey a civilian government, which is, in turn, elected by and – in theory – representative of We, the People. The Military does not set policy; they are expected to obey and implement policy set by a given Administration. We expect them to do so with honor and at the risk of life, limb, and well-being. It is incumbent upon We, the People, to make sure that they are not abused in doing so, that they are asked to risk their lives for only the gravest and most important of reasons. You do not set them on impossible, ill-defined missions on the murkiest of intelligence on the cheap without what is necessary to do the appointed job and, hopefully, survive and keep sending them back with no defined end. If you find them in that position, you correct it or you pull them out of harm’s way. THAT’S how you support the troops. You don’t WASTE them.
Do I love my country? You bet I do. Am I always proud of it? No. I see it as it is and I see it as it could be. Mindless sloganeering isn’t patriotism; it’s just noise. Love the country and make it better. That’s a patriot’s job.
Happy Fifth of July.
Writer / actor / playwright John Ostrander is man behind the typewriter at such vaunted comics as GrimJack, Suicide Squad, Star Wars: Legacy, Munden’s Bar and Batman. His own personal blog is at http://www.comicscommunity.com/boards/ostrander/.