The Declaration of Independence is best remembered as a declaration of war, a war declared on the grounds that we wanted our own flag. The sheer stupidity and anachronism of the idea serves to discourage any thoughts about why Canada didn't need a bloody war, whether the U.S. war benefitted people outside the new aristocracy to whom power was transferred, what bothered Frederick Douglas so much about a day celebrating "independence," or what the Declaration of Independence actually said.
When you read the Declaration of Independence, it turns out to be an indictment of King George III for various abuses of power. And those abuses of power look fairly similar to abuses of power we happily permit U.S. presidents to engage in today, either as regards the people of this nation or the people of territories and nations that our military occupies today in a manner uncomfortably resembling Britain's rule over the 13 colonies.
Or perhaps I should say, a large portion of us take turns being happy or outraged depending on the political party with which the current president is identified.
"We have been sliding for 70 years to a situation where Congress has nothing to do with the decision about whether to go to war or not, and the president is becoming an absolute monarch." Thus spoke Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D., N.Y.) on the floor of the House recently, some years after having refused to back the impeachment of President George W. Bush, thus facilitating the slide toward the current situation.
Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower who leaked the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago, recently commented that President Nixon had finally won. Although Ellsberg was acquitted of criminal charges, the facts made public, and Nixon compelled to resign, all of the abuses of power Nixon faced possible impeachment and prosecution for have now been legalized (or made acceptable practice): warrantless spying, searches and seizures, baseless secrecy, assassination attempts, etc. By the same logic, King George III is as big a winner as Richard M. Nixon. A quick survey of the charges brought against King George III on July 4, 1776, is illuminating:
"He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good."
Our current president brushes aside inconvenient laws like the War Powers Resolution and backs retroactive immunity for the violation of laws like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. His approach to the enforcement of laws against tyrannical abuse is one of "looking forward, not backward."
"He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. "
President Obama dictated the terms of a health insurance reform bill to Congress, a bill that makes it much more difficult for states like Vermont and California, that want to, to actually provide their people with healthcare, unless they get special permission from Obama. Similarly, Obama has threatened to prevent states from legalizing marijuana, supported federal law that prevents states from granting their gay citizens full marriage rights, etc. But it is when we look abroad that we truly see the resemblance to King George III, as U.S. presidents dictate to the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. The people of Iraq have wanted independence since 2003. When President Bush imposed three more years of war three years ago, Senator Obama objected to the unconstitutional treaty made without the advice or consent of the Congress. Now President Obama's concern is how to stretch the occupation out beyond the end of this year. The Iraqis still can't see any dawn's early light.
"He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. "
Those people of course include the people of Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, the Marianas, the Virgin Islands, etc., not to mention the occupied peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan, or the people of the dozens of nations around the world occupied by U.S. military bases and dictated to by U.S.-dominated global financial institutions.
"He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. "
No fireworks and military parades for our legislative body this year. Congress is staying in town because it's one thing to slash taxes for billionaires and corporations or to hand Wall Street hundreds of billions of dollars or to launch unauthorized wars or to spend more than most state governments need merely on air-conditioning our imperial offices in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is entirely something else to allow the government to continue borrowing money without making some unemployed, sick, homeless, and elderly Americans suffer some more. Shared sacrifice, people! A fatigued Congress is a cruel Congress.
"He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. "
Does organizing a coup in Honduras qualify? What about the work of our puppet tyrant, Mr. Karzai, over yonder in Afghanistan, where the representative houses have effectively been dissolved?
"He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within. "