On this Fourth of July, let us pause in our festivities to consider what we are celebrating. To help, we’ve posted several reflections about Independence Day on PopularResistance.org.
We begin with the transcript of a speech given by Frederick Douglass on the fourth of July in 1852. He acknowledges the accomplishment of gaining independence from the British Empire but reminds the audience that he does not share in that independence. Douglass urges the young nation to acknowledge the truth of its founding and the hypocrisy of celebrating freedom while millions were not free. He concludes,
“For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed….”
We have become that which we rejected
Bill Bigelow, an educator from Oregon, similarly writes about the need to understand the truth of our history and how social change occurs and to teach it in our schools. The United States has become that from which it originally sought to separate itself: an Empire. Class War Films provides a new short video history of American Empire in which it states that the function of empire is as follows: “It is by violence abroad and deception and repression at home to enrich the ruling class at the cost of the utter ruin of its society.”
All Empires fall when they overreach and Class War Films concludes that the United States is in decline. Put simply, the primary responsibility of governments is to ensure security, but US government has gone astray to protect the security of multinational corporations at the expense of its population. Tom Dispatch published Noam Chomsky’s article, “America’s Real Foreign Policy,” which describes this misdirection in greater depth.
But we don’t have to look far to see it. The recently leaked text of another secret trade agreement, TISA, shows that it serves to further roll back corporate regulations. The twin agreements, TPP and TAFTA, are huge corporate power grabs and the negotiators know it. That is why they fled in the dark of night almost 3,000 miles to avoid protests this week. And that is why corporations are gagging employees.
Secrecy is one tool used by the elites to do their dirty work, and another is doublespeak. Chair of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, says that he opposes a tiered Internet but he is avoiding what the public is clearly demanding, reclassification of the Internet as a Common Carrier so that all people would have equal access. With less than two weeks before the public comment period ends, we performed a musical in front of the FCC on Tuesday which asked “Which Side Are You On, Tom?” Click here to take action.
The Supreme Court revealed which side it was on this week through decisions that weaken the rights of women. Obama also says one thing and does another as he speaks about our nation’s immigrant heritage while separating families by deporting millions of people. The US response to the influx of immigrants is being questioned as possibly violating international law. And Hillary Clinton has had a busy week supporting rigged corporate trade in Denver and helping Big Ag frame GMOs in more acceptable terms in San Diego.
Celebrating our rebellious roots
It is time once again to reject Empire and oligarchy and change the course of our still young nation. Today marks the beginning of a campaign called the Rolling Rebellion for Real Democracy. Click here to learn more about it and to get involved. People are holding creative actions across the country to make our true history and lack of true democracy visible.
Of course, what we lack is democratic governance. True democracy, defined as ‘people power,’ is on the rise. There are victories to celebrate this week. In Maryland, students announced the halt in construction of a huge trash incinerator close to their school that they’ve been fighting for three years. In New York, local governments won the right to ban fracking. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to allow victims of torture in Abu Ghraib to sue the private contractors who abused them. And the US Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution in favor of postal banks that could end predatory financial practices and keep wealth in communities.
Resistance is ongoing. Protesters in Detroit called for a moratorium on the water shut-offs and promised to take direct action if necessary to protect their right to water. Homeowners in New York City who are still at risk of foreclosure released a new report showing how people of color are adversely affected by underwater mortgages and demanded that the city take steps to protect them. And dozens of people walked more than 150 miles straight to the Governor’s home to protest a law that exempts oil and gas companies from liability for damage to water. On July 13, a rally will be held in DC over a new gas terminal being proposed in Maryland that would increase fracking and threaten the safety of the surrounding community.
A growing global campaign to stop corporate abuses and hold transnational corporations accountable held a week of actions in Geneva during the meeting of the Human Rights Council which included a People’s Tribunal.
This Independence Day, resolve to create real democracy
As we celebrate the nostalgia of Independence Day, let’s resolve to actually become independent from our Empire economy that never fails to fund wars while our domestic infrastructure and economy falter. Let’s resolve to become independent of oligarchic rule that puts the rights and interests of large corporations before the needs of the public, and that finds it acceptable to pollute or to cut off water to hundreds of thousands while corporations escape accountability.
When the Occupy Movement joined the global uprising, the encampments gave us a taste of what caring communities looked like, of what participatory democracy felt like and how to create new sustainable systems. Since then, as occupy chronicler Nathan Schneider writes, activists are engaged in all sorts of efforts to protest injustice and build alternatives. It is difficult but also rewarding work.
Let’s imagine what real democracy would look like. Howie Hawkins gives us some ideas in his new article on the meaning of democracy. And Professor Steven Colatrella goes even further by gathering ideas from all over the world and assembling them into a roadmap for “A Civilization based on Self-Governing Cities and Townships, Cooperative Self-Governed Workplaces and Public Finance, Sustainable Agriculture and Renewable Energy and Universal Access to Citizenship, Income and Subsistence.”
Out of crisis comes opportunity for real solutions. Take some time this weekend to lean about our true history, talk about the kind of society that we want to live in and become active in making it a reality.
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