The Lady Speaks

What Does America Mean To You?

MSNBC has a message board asking the question: What does America mean to you? Some of the answers are the usual “Love it or leave it” crap, and some tell us what a lovely place America is, and some “may contain profanity and are hidden.”, but turn out to be screeds written by some winger. Some question the right of our government to break the laws and ignore the Constitution.

I sat and thought for a minute. What does America mean to me? I know what it used to mean….but how has that changed?

Let’s go back to how it started:

In 1776, our founders issued the Declaration of Independence – a list of reasons why the colonies had decided to secede from the British Empire.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men 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 Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

–That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, 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 Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. 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 provide new Guards for their future security.

—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] 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. […]

When Congress released an explosive document creating a new system of government, it not only set the course of American history, but ricocheted around the globe. The ideas contained were so revolutionary, so new, that few gave the country much chance of succeeding.

All 13 states ratified the Constitution, and thus our system of government was born – a government that allowed no one person to hold all the power, and based all power in its citizens (and states), while giving its citizens certain and specific rights that the government could not breach.

What powers were left to the federal government were distributed across all three ‘separate but equal’ branches of government, creating the necessary ‘checks and balances’ our founders believed would ensure that no one person could seize control of government.

I assume most of you learned this in civics class, but for those who missed it (or have been too busy weeing in your pants with fear to remember), here’s the nutshell version:

Congress – two houses of duly-elected representatives of the people – could create laws; the President could sign or veto. A veto sent the bill back to the Congress where they could try to muster a 2/3 vote to override. If an override failed, the bill was dead. The Supreme Court judged the Constitutionality of the laws. Any law violating the rights of the people as guaranteed in the Constitution was invalidated.

Now, as we look back at our history as near the momentous occasion of our country’s 230th birthday, we can only assume the founders weep to see their Constitution shredded in the name of fear.

In 1776, the men of the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence knowing their lives and their families’ lives were on the line as soon as ink touched paper. They knew that, as soon as they signed, everything they loved could be taken from them – material and non-material. They knew that, if they were lucky, they would be killed by the British redcoats. If unlucky, they would be transported to Britain to stand trial for treason – a mere formality before being hung.

Contrast the Second Continental Congress and today’s Rubber-Stamp Republican one. The former literally put everything on the line for a government “of the people, by the people, for the people”. The latter tells us we must fear, fear, fear…but don’t forget to keep shopping and driving those SUVs.

Contrast the words of patriots like Patrick Henry

“Give me liberty, or give me death!”

and Nathan Hale

“I regret I have but one life to give for my country”

with Senator Pat Roberts (R-Ks):

“You don’t have civil liberties if you’re dead.”

Today, the 4th Amendment exists only on paper. The government not only spies on all our communications and banking transactions, but – thanks to the death of the “knock and announce” rule – even our homes are no longer safe.

While the bed-wetters will tell us (again) that we have nothing to fear if we aren’t criminals, they miss the point. The 4th Amendment was created because the Founders knew what it was like to have the King’s troops enter homes at will, often without reason.

America used to be a beacon to the world, but no longer.

Not while our government tortures and renditions its enemies. Not while they hold prisoners without due process and access to counsel. Not while the rich are making money while the poor become even more so and the middle-class disappears. Not while we allow our Constitution to be violated without speaking up. Not while our country is in debt that will take generations to repay.

Not while we start a war with a country that was no threat to us. Not while our soldiers are dying now for a lost cause, sent into combat without proper equipment. Not when our veterans are seeing cuts in their benefits and healthcare. Not when 45 million Americans have no healthcare.

Not when 1/5th of our children live in poverty. Not when CEO pay rises exorbitantly while working Americans’ wages stagnate. Not when an entire city can be left to die through ignorance and incompetence. Not when many of our citizens on the Gulf Coast are still living in travel trailers 10 months later.

Not while our government seeks to curtail the very rights endowed to us by our Founders.

I love America – and I weep for what she’s become. I despair for her future and that of my children and (eventual) grandchildren.


June 27, 2006 - Posted by | America, Bush, Cheney, Congress, Constitution, Domestic Spying, Government, Politics, Protest, White House



    Comment by TRUTH | July 4, 2007 | Reply

  2. So, you’re a Republican? 😉

    Comment by PA_Lady | July 5, 2007 | Reply

  3. “I love America – and I weep for what she’s become.”

    That was ingenious. You should write a book. Seriously.

    Comment by Evan Sandhoefner | September 14, 2008 | Reply

  4. this was a very nice essay to read because it was very intersting to reada bout About and it made me see that there are things to value in a america even if this ecomoy is so bad there are still many things of value her and on of them is that we mare making changes here in america we have made a big step we have are first ever afican american president

    Comment by tia | September 16, 2009 | Reply

  5. “Not when 45 million Americans have no healthcare.” The reality is that not one single American or even illegal alien is without healthcare. We can all get health care, it’s just not free.

    Comment by D J Dobson | September 18, 2010 | Reply

  6. America means greed, hate, and nothing I believe.

    Comment by David | March 23, 2011 | Reply

    • America means living in a society that’s diverse and innovative and beautive. America means justice for its people, tranquility in our everyday lives and the right to express your opinion without condemnation.

      Comment by Victoria | May 5, 2011 | Reply

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