Cancel the parade.
Tuck the soaring speeches in a drawer for another time.
This year, America doesn't deserve to celebrate its birthday. This Fourth of July should be a day of quiet and atonement.
For we have sinned.
We have failed to pay attention. We've settled for lame excuses. We've spit on the memory of those who did that brave, brave thing in Philadelphia 232 years ago.
The America those men founded should never torture a prisoner.
The America they founded should never imprison people for years without charge or hearing.
The America they founded should never ship prisoners to foreign lands, knowing their new jailers might torture them.
Such abuses once were committed by the arrogant crowns of Europe, spawning rebellion.
Today, our nation does such things in the name of our safety. Petrified, unwilling to take the risks that love of liberty demands, we close our eyes.
We have done such things, on orders from the Oval Office. We have done them, without general outrage or shame.
Abu Ghraib. Guantanamo. CIA secret prisons. "Rendition" of prisoners to foreign torture chambers.
It's not enough that we had good reason to be scared.
The men huddled long ago in Philadelphia had better reason. A British fleet floated off the Jersey coast, full of hands eager to hang them from the nearest lampposts.
Yet they pledged their lives and sacred honor -- no idle vow -- to defend the "inalienable rights" of men. Inalienable -- what does that signify? It means rights that belong to each person, simply by virtue of being human. Rights that can never be taken away, no matter what evil a person might do or might intend.