On July 4, 1776, a group of farmers, landholders, elites, and rebels published “The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies.”
The document was a precise indictment warning the British King, George III, that people of the “thirteen united States of America” wanted to dissolve their relationship with the King and the governing structure he had imposed on American colonists.
The words written by “Founding Fathers” like cannabis farmer Thomas Jefferson were eloquent and deadly serious, and they preceded a “revolutionary war” in which thousands of Americans waged an insurgency against the occupying British army.
Yet, surveys today show that most Americans under age 40 cannot accurately quote even one sentence from the documents that are so important in their country’s history. They can quote television commercials and lyrics from Britney Spears’ songs, but they apparently have no idea what their Declaration of Independence or Constitution say about the obligations of citizens to “alter or to abolish” governments that have become tyrannical.
Here’s part of what Jefferson and his fellow insurgents wrote:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Viewed through the binoculars of history from 229 years later, we wonder what happened to these sentiments. Where today is the spirit of courageous rebellion that animated and emboldened these bygone revolutionaries?
Americans seem unaware or unconcerned that their government is waging an illegal and incompetent war in Iraq. The American economy is sagging and losing millions of middle class jobs, despite billions of dollars in pork barrel military spending.
America’s environment- its beaches, lakes, rivers, forests, coastline, farms, and air- is being decimated in what can only be termed an “ecocide,” while top scientists charge that the White House has repeatedly censored scientific environmental reports at the behest of the petroleum, chemical, and coal industries.
It is clear to all but the most conservative Americans that George W. Bush and other top officials in his administration lied about the Iraq war, and that the government may well have to institute a compulsory draft to ensure a steady supply of bodies to fill the hospitals and body bags provided by the US military.
Bush and his allies in Congress and the courts have set up a massively-funded series of bureaucracies and laws that function as a Gestapo, SS and KGB worthy of Nazi Germany or the Cold War-era Soviet Union. The Department of Homeland Security, the re-channeling of the FBI into domestic spying, national identity cards, no-fly lists that snag thousands of law-abiding citizens at airports every day, secret search warrants and wiretaps, warrantless searches, indefinite detention without legal counsel, disappearances, torture in prisons at home and abroad, the killing of foreign journalists and their protectors when the journalists are trying to report on US military abuses in the Middle East, the firing and blacklisting of whistleblowers, threats to jail reporters who refuse to reveal confidential sources, mandatory drug testing, police with drawn guns and vicious dogs assaulting innocent students in high schools, government propaganda campaigns that blur the line between news reporting and brainwashing, the criminalization of dissent, free speech and non-violent civil disobedience, the corruption of the electoral system to the extent that the integrity of the last two presidential elections was compromised- the list goes on and on, and all of it backs up the contention that America is a police state run by a tyrannical government.
Almost a million people a year and their families are victimized by the prohibition of marijuana. In the recent Raich ruling handed down by the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas correctly wrote in dissent that the Founding Fathers who fought for independence and created the constitution would never have authorized the federal government to ban a particular type of plant.
Nor would the revolutionaries who froze their butts off in the frigid winters of New England dodging musket balls and bayonets in the Revolutionary War have authorized the federal government to ignore the majority of voting citizens in 11 states who have approved the partial repeal of the unconstitutional federal prohibition of a plant. Nor would the founding revolutionaries have authorized government agents to arrest, injure and kill people to enforce prohibition of a plant, or to seize their homes and money because people grew a plant. Especially when the plant was one that America’s earliest settlers had grown in Europe and in the New World, one which Jefferson devoted significant acreage to on his Virginia plantation.
The war on marijuana has created Supreme Court-authorized “exceptions” to the constitution. With an opening on the Supreme Court conveniently announced at the beginning of a holiday weekend, the highest-ranking Democratic senator suggests a Republican drug warrior, Ohio Senator Mike DeWine, as a good candidate for the nation’s highest court. DeWine is an ultraconservative who co-sponsored legislation to introduce a deadly bio-engineered fungus into the environment, designed to kill marijuana. Problem is, the fungi might not know it was only supposed to kill cannabis. Scientists warned that it could kill all kinds of plants, but that didn’t matter to DeWine. Won’t it be great to have him on the Supreme Court?
It is incomprehensible, Justice Thomas wrote, that any rational person would believe that the US constitution gives the federal government the right to so thoroughly take away a person’s “unalienable Rights,” which are “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” If a person cannot grow the hemp-marijuana plant in her garden, if she cannot use it as a medicine in places where the majority of citizens have explicitly voted in favor of such use, how can anyone say that America is still governed by the freedom-affirming ideology of the original insurgents who created its founding documents? How can any American not realize that their citizenship duty to “alter or abolish” their government has come due?
And yet, in the face of such an obviously oppressive regime, in which the president, the Congress, the courts, corporations, and local authorities collude to oppress the masses, there are no significant marches, protests, sit-ins. There are no articles of impeachment being offered against Bush in Congress.
When Clinton lied about whether he lied about having consensual sex with a young woman, he was put on impeachment trial in Congress for it. But Bush has lied about war, killing at least a hundred thousand Iraqis and nearly 1800 American soldiers under false pretenses. Irrefutable British government documents prove it. But Bush is not facing an imminent impeachment trial.
He, his current attorney general, and senior officials in the Pentagon were “in the loop” on systematic torture, abuses, and murder in US-run prison camps and US-sponsored prison-interrogation chambers around the world. Organizations including the United Nations have verified repeated violations of international law, including torture, by US forces and private mercenaries paid by the US- but still Bush faces no imminent impeachment.
Bush’s vice president and many other members of his administration have financial ties to corporations that have taken billions of dollars in public money to run various wars around the world. Much of this money has been wasted or is totally unaccounted for.
But Bush is not facing imminent impeachment, and unlike the 1960’s and early 70’s when Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, the Weather Underground, Students for a Democratic Society, and millions of other civil rights and anti-war activists shut down or burned down America’s major cities, including Washington, DC, using mass rallies and direct action, today’s Americans are quietly going about their business with nary a whimper.
According to opinion polls, the only things they really care about are high gas prices, Tom Cruise’s latest Lolita, “sports,” and the “runaway bride.”
The Declaration of Independence is a d?j? vu document. The list of complaints it outlined against King George 229 years ago is in many ways identical in spirit to those that could today be listed against King George W.
In the original language of the Declaration, these complaints include:
[The King’s refusal to] Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
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.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
[He has protected his troops] from punishment for any Murders which they commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent;
For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury;
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences;
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments;
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us…
If an educated and informed person considers these complaints from a bygone century and compares them with what Bush, the feds, the police and other government entities do in America today, the direct and indirect parallels are obvious. King George III faced an ultimatum from Americans for behavior that King George W is getting away with. Why?
Why do the majority of Americans do nothing to change their government? There are a few revolutionaries, to be sure, and most of them are in the marijuana movement, the environmental movement, the civil liberties community, and the animal liberation movement.
There are a handful of people who stand up using their real names in public to defy marijuana prohibition even though it places them in danger of arrest, prosecution, and incarceration. For their efforts, these people are branded domestic terrorists: the federal government recently announced that animal rights activists and environmental activists are the biggest terrorist threats in the US.
And the federal government, waiting only a few days after medical marijuana lost again in the Supreme Court, has already begun sending armed agents into medpot states to raid marijuana dispensaries.
It’s good to know where people’s priorities are.
The people who wrote the Declaration of Independence knew that it’s hard to get folks to stand up for their rights, and they described in the Declaration how they had tried every peaceful means of throwing off the King’s rule. It wasn’t like they rushed into revolution.
“In every stage of these Oppressions,” the Founding Fathers wrote. “We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people. Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.”
Jefferson and the other insurgents weren’t impatient, hot-headed fools. They tried to reason with the King. They tried to negotiate.
And they admitted that people are inclined to accept oppression for a long time, and are reluctant to do anything about it:
“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. ?Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”
This preceding passage contains the crux of the matter. Note that the founders say it is the “right” and “duty” of citizens to “throw off such Government.”
Indeed, this is the core meaning of citizenship: that every citizen upholds the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.
As former United Nations Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter said recently, the American people have forgotten the obligations of citizenship, and are actively avoiding them.
Ritter is one of the early voices who warned years ago that the US was lying about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. He has become a prominent social critic and military analyst. His ideas aren’t just one man’s opinion. He postulates that a corporate-government-media cabal has brainwashed Americans into becoming consumers instead of citizens. Most Americans do nothing “political” other than vote. They do not see themselves as participants in a democracy, he says. They see themselves as shoppers in a vast mall.
Why have the American people not risen up to overthrow their war criminal government that has also installed a tyranny at home? Because they are too busy on their cell phones, with their video games and monster trucks, watching professional wrestling and NASCAR, consuming 25% of the world’s resources, eating factory farmed animals, breeding, boozing, going to church, taking Prozac and Ritalin, playing the lottery.
If they were to become educated and concerned about the actions of their government, they might have to rouse themselves from their couches and SUV’s. They might have to risk getting their heads beaten in by police. They might get tear gassed or arrested. They might get put on a government watch list. They might have to follow in Jefferson’s footsteps, and put their life on the line for freedom.
Apparently, they are too lazy, and too frightened. So they do nothing, and their country becomes a fascist dictatorship that wreaks havoc on its own citizens and the rest of the world.
We’ve seen this before, in Germany, in 1937, the same year that Harry Anslinger convinced Congress to criminalize marijuana. That was a bad year!
One wonders what it will take to wake up the American people. Perhaps it will be as it has been before, the children. Specifically the children in America’s public schools who are literally being followed around by desperate military recruiters seeking to con them into joining the death squads of the Oil Empire.
American military recruiters have been rocked by scandal recently. They’re having a hard time getting kids to join up, so along with their usual shameless lies, bribes and phony sales pitches, they’ve resorted to kidnapping teenagers, threatening to have them arrested, telling them how to lie about their past and beat drug tests, and in one case, imprisoning a “mentally retarded” youth against his will and taking him to a military induction center.
Bush’s No Child Left Behind law mandates that public schools provide to military recruiters the name, address and phone number of every student in America. The recruiters use that information to invade the privacy of youngsters and their families. Recently it was revealed that the Pentagon had colluded with a private marketing firm to share the “Left Behind” mandated information with corporations and the police. It amounts to a huge database containing detailed, private information on almost every family in America.
Maybe Americans are afraid to change their government because they know how brutal their government is. Maybe they remember May, 1970, on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio, when a group of unarmed students protested America’s illegal invasion and bombing of Cambodia and Laos.
Ohio Governor James Rhodes sent in the National Guard, and the Guardsmen treated the campus like a war zone. On May 3rd, they had bayoneted two men, one a disabled veteran, who had yelled at them from cars. The following day, May 4th, soldiers marched down a hill into a field of demonstrators. Seeing so many angry students, they ran back up the hill. The students were unarmed, although a few hurled epithets and rocks. Seconds before they would have marched around the corner of a large building and been completely out of sight of the crowd, many Guardsmen turned around and fired live ammunition directly into the students, hitting thirteen, killing four of them.
This was not a momentary lapse of reason. The Guardsman shot at the students for 13 seconds. Nobody was shooting back at them. There’s no way that a rational soldier could have felt he was likely to be injured by the students.
The soldiers admitted firing at specific unarmed targets. One soldier shot a demonstrator who was “giving him the finger.” The closest shot student was at least sixty feet away from the soldiers. All but one were more than 100 feet away; all but two were more than 200 feet away. One of the dead was 255 feet away; the rest were 300 to 400 feet away. The most distant student shot was more than 700 feet from the Guardsmen.
The governor of Ohio and the Nixon administration defended the killings, and the state of Ohio never prosecuted anyone for the deaths.
The Nixon administration conducted meaningless “investigations,” similar to those conducted about 9/11. White House recordings and documents later proved that Nixon viewed the students as “bums,” wanted the Secret Service “to go beat them up,” and felt the dead and injured students “had it coming.” Opinion polls showed that many Americans agreed with Nixon. One conservative pundit called the killing of the students, “The most popular murders ever committed in the United States.”
A civil lawsuit resulted in a paltry money award. A few years ago, the state of Ohio issued a statement of “regret,” but did not apologize for what happened May 4, 1970, when students with conscience lay in pools of blood dying on an American college campus, shot to death for the crime of trying to stop an illegal war.
For many Canadians and other members of the world community, there’s something frightening and sad about the American people and their government.
Even some self-proclaimed American pot smokers and growers, who post their opinions in forums on the Cannabis Culture website, defend George W. Bush, the American psyche, and American wars.
Some website observers believe it’s logically impossible for a person who believes in marijuana to support the government that began the worldwide war on marijuana. Others suspect that pro-America folks on the Cannabis Culture website are DEA agents or provocateurs. Whatever they are, they are just as strange as if they were Jewish people in death camps in Germany in 1940, defending Hitler while waiting to be poisoned in gas chambers. Sane people don’t defend tyrannical governments that oppress them. It just doesn’t make sense.
Billions of inhabitants of planet Earth are looking to America, and hoping that all Americans will honor their citizenship obligations this July 4th, and from henceforth. The world waits for Americans to stop their government from waging illegal worldwide wars.
When the fireworks are bursting in air on American Independence Day this Monday, Americans should consider their origins, their independence, and their future.
Freedom-loving people everywhere hope Americans will decide, as did the founding fathers who waged an insurgency that freed lower North America of British rule did, to “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor” in the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and to the duty of getting rid of the tyrannical American government and replacing it with one that honors human rights, cannabis, and the constitution.