This is the fourth entry in my annual series of Reflections on Independence. This year is really more of a progress report than a philosophical grok on the meaning of Independence. Where are we in our struggle to take back our government, indeed our form of government? In the first in this series, four years ago, I made my first open call for peaceful revolution on grounds that the Declaration of Independence anticipates periodic revolutions and recognizes our current circumstances as appropriate cause. At the time, I didn't know anybody else taking that forward a position, and didn't even find myself so emboldened on a regular basis.
By spring 2005 I was frequently asking, what will it take to make the phrase "peaceful revolution" socially acceptable? In some quarters perhaps it never will be. But I've now used it enough to know that there really is not anyplace where I would avoid using it (except perhaps the airport, but I won't go there, literally). When described as a shift in the balance of power between the government and We The People, peaceful revolution can be disarmed of its scary connotations and presented instead as concrete steps that all citizens can recognize as warranted.
I addressed this more thoroughly in Blueprint For Peaceful Revolution (.pdf), a paper I circulated last September and then included as the final chapter in my book, We Do Not Consent (.pdf). This family of ideas have also been validated in the form of the Voter Confidence Resolution, adopted by the City council of Arcata, CA (.pdf) on July 20, 2005; the Voters' Resolution of No Confidence (.pdf) endorsed just this past month by the California Election Protection Network; my rousing speech to the Humboldt County chapter of the NAACP on MLK Day 2006; the Humboldt Revolution community forum I helped plan and present in February; prepar ed remarks I gave (QuickTime video, four minutes) at the Voter Confidence Committee press conference during last month's Primary "election"; and perhaps most importantly, the many everyday interactions I have with people eager to tell me of some Diebold disgrace or other that they had just learned about.
Several people have asked me, over the past year or so, why I focus so much on the Declaration of Independence rather than the U.S. Constitution. At this time there is nothing legally binding about the Declaration while the Constitution is the law of the land. Herein lies the crux of this year's Reflection on Independence. When those who create and enforce laws do not themselves follow those laws, their behavior goes beyond lawlessness and actually voids the basic compact of civilized society. We can no more feel guaranteed of universal health care or a balanced budget than we can be assured the Constitution will protect and preserve our rights or hold accountable those attempting to be above the law. Without a win-win option, the strategy becomes No Deal!
With the elimination of the basic ground rules defining the relationship between the government and the Governed, pretensions of normalcy evaporate - all bets are off. To go on pretending that this relationship is proper is to enable the abusive spouse who hits us. Our response must be: WE DO NOT CONSENT. This is more than just a great meme. This phrase must reflect our actions. We must stop consenting to being treated this way. We must withdraw our complicity from the means of doing us harm. A few weeks ago I posted some examples of what this might look like. Much more discussion is needed in this area.
The Declaration and Constitution are both models, ideals we should strive to uphold. The big strategic advantage of the Declaration is that it allows We The People to wield the power and call the shots. While we idealistically cling to the Constitution, Mr. Bush attaches signing statements to new laws, as if crossing his fingers to void a deal on which he is simultaneously shaking hands. We will continue to be as powerless as this as long as we accept our voided deal, our broken social compact, as if it were intact and functioning properly. Certainly in the world, and I believe also here in this country, we are the vast majority now who see this dichotomy.
What we need is a new Declaration of Independence, in simple modern language, that says the Power belongs to the People and when the government takes more of this Power than We are prepared to give to the government, that government no longer serves us and will be altered or abolished according to one of our nation's most revered historical documents, the Declaration of Independence.
In the spirit of this Reflection series, I have again pasted the Declaration of Independence below and encourage you to read or hopefully re-read it, giving careful attention to the similarities between the original list of Abuses and Usurpations and those we endure today. Peaceful revolution is necessary, NOW!
July 4, 1776
The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united* States of America.