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I want to know, just what the hell have we become?

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On July 4, 1776, 56 men signed their name to a document that was in effect an indictment of treason against the Crown, and that would have led directly to their being hanged or shot, had their bold and brave effort failed. Right or wrong, when the total (free and slave) population of the US was 31,443,000, through the four years conflict between the North and South, 412,938 combatants were wounded severely and 620,000 combatants were killed. (http://www.civilwarhome.com/population1860.htm) US World War I casualties were 116,000 killed and 205,700 wounded. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I_casualties) Through the three and one-half years the country was involved in World War II, 416,000 Americans died in the military campaigns that kept us free, and made half the world also free. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties). Add Korea and the Vietnam War, and you add another 211,500 wounded and 89,100 killed (click here ), all tragic passengers on the much, much too long and gruesome train that has traveled the tracks of this nation's history.

I have deliberately not included US military casualties after Vietnam because only the tiniest fraction of US citizens have been the least involved in them, which is one component of this essay's theme.

It matters not one bit, one's religion or lack of same, nor one's race nor gender identity nor sexual orientation nor ethnicity nor country, though humanity's long 1.6 million-year civilizing march out of the Olduvai Gorge, not an inch or centimeter forward has been gained through either acquiescence on behalf of any status quo or timidity before the rigorous challenge.

I pointed out above the terrible costs borne by Americans in pursuit of moral principles; that no country shall claim ownership of us, that no man shall claim ownership of another, that no country shall march unrestrained over its neighbor.

For more than half our constitutional history, a woman's place, legally, was wherever her family or husband asserted it should be, but at no time was it in the voting booth or with equality in the work place. A great many someones had to take a clear stand, to make what was never right just. For those who elevated themselves to the noble fight, if peace in the family or the social environment was the price that had to be paid, then the returning call was "Let there be war, and let me join it." And the fight goes on.

The pigment of one's skin -- anything other than white -- for most this nation's history, determined one's place in it and the share of the country's promise one might rightfully reach for. Adding to the multitude of the Union fallen in the purgative quest to blot the shameful stain are all who have persevered since General Lee surrendered his army at the ramshackle Appomattox courthouse. If peace in the family or the social environment was the price that had to be paid, then the returning call was "Let there be war, and let me join it."


Both savaging and savage death have comprised constituent parts of that struggle. It wasn't only Dr. King. June 21, 1964, the night prior to my enlistment in the army, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, three civil rights volunteers from the North, on a mission to register black Americans to vote, were hanged by the Ku Klux Klan in Nashtoba County, Mississippi. They were neither the first nor the last to stand up, exactly as did Nathan Hale, who was hanged by the British September 22, 1776. And the fight goes on, though today by all too few with the conscience, the honor, and the courage to wage it.

I make it a concerted effort to attend no activity where the National Anthem might be played. Not because I do not pay homage to my country; one I love more than my own life or the life of anyone I know. I refrain because of the phrase "the home of the brave." It's a tawdry lie. America is not the home of the brave, it's the residence of a population that hasn't even the courage to identify itself in comments to published Internet stories and editorials, the residence of those who cower behind a screen-name curtain of anonymity, the residence of a population that places family and social comity and shopping and low taxes and being entertained above any cause oriented to an expansion of social justice, the residence of a population that is fully prepared to endorse torture, to endorse a surrender of its rights to privacy, to exchange its very soul for some promise of physical security; a promise that is empty of any capacity to fulfill the contract.

And I am embarrassed and ashamed of who we have too much become.

Nor will I recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and regard it as a most morally deficient abrogation of citizenship responsibilities in this glorious experiment called the United States of America. It is absolutely impossible to imagine any one of those 56 who pledged to each other their Lives, Fortunes, and sacred Honor not recoiling in utter disgust that any mindless and coercive social recitation should be presumed necessary to bind this country's citizens to each other and to the country itself. A "citizen" knows what is expected and what may be demanded of him and her, on behalf of the country, and doesn't need to publically announce to anyone anything, in order that those obligations will be etched into his or her heart and fulfilled readily should the need arise. Any and all who need, or even desire, a "pledge" need what no publically recited pledge can ever provide: genuine, basic respect and love for what they otherwise take for granted, and the genuine willingness to forsake everything -- life, fortune, family and social comity -- in its defense, and in defense of its principles and promises.

And I am embarrassed and ashamed of who we have too much become.

My name is Ed Tubbs, I winter in Palm Springs, California, and I respond only to those with the decency and temerity to leave their real names.

 

An "Old Army Vet" and liberal, qua liberal, with a passion for open inquiry in a neverending quest for truth unpoisoned by religious superstitions. Per Voltaire: "He who can lead you to believe an absurdity can lead you to commit an atrocity."
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This country was rooted in violence. You have list... by Bill Samuel on Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 10:51:00 AM
If only our president and members of congress saw ... by Sherry Gadberry Turner on Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 12:29:35 PM
My sentiments exactly.... by Bryan Emmel on Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 10:30:57 PM