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Like many personal blogs of its era, this blog is moribund, a casualty of what we might call "the Facebook effect." However, as of late 2015, two things are clear: (1) The Indie Web is a thing, and (2) the re-decentralization of the web is a thing. So who knows? 2016 2017 2018 (!) could be the year this blog rises from its own ashes. Stay tuned!

Friday, 04 July 2003
On the Fourth of July, Americans celebrate not only liberty, independence, and freedom; we also celebrate the power of the written word. Other countries celebrate their independence on the day a jail was stormed, the day a monarch granted autonomy, the day a war was won. Americans celebrate the day the country’s founders put quill to ink and crafted an elegant screed. Word up.

We don’t have a monarch here in America, but we do have sacred texts that we hold every bit as dear. The Declaration of Independence, like its brother the Constitution, is a brilliant document but an imperfect one. We cringe now at the Constitution’s three-fifths compromise, and similarly, this bit from the Declaration, recalling one of the crimes of King George, certainly clashes with the premise than all men are created equal:
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
We take for granted how extraordinary the American experiment was at the time that it began. And we also take for granted how much closer we are now to a society that holds as “self-evident truth” the equality of all. But look: In 1776, we were still talking about savages. And slaves.

This country was not perfect when it was created. It is not perfect now. But it remains a bold experiment, one that thus far has brought a higher standard of living to more people than any experiment that came before. As the experiment continues, there will be further missteps, and there will be unexpected triumphs. But even when things are looking really bleak, keep your chin up, and have some faith in this country. And today, take a moment to admit it: We are, in fact, very lucky to live here.

Happy Fourth of July, folks.
posted to /life at 4:04pm :: 3 responses

Byrne had this to say (07/06/2003 11:32:34):
First of all, the phrase "Indian Savages" does nothing to contradict the idea that all men are created equal. One might conclude differently from a rhetorical standpoint, but then, this is a very rhetorical document, isn't it? It is easy in our hyper-PC culture to glom onto that phrase and trash our founding fathers as racist, slave-owning, Indian-killing assholes. But take a step back, in attempt to disrupt American colonists and keep a hold of his empire, King George did enter into an agreement with several tribes to use whatever means necessary to kill American colonists ... so the phrase “Indian Savages” is not so much a racial epithet as it is a valid acknowledgment of those colonists being ruthlessly attacked in the context of a war.

Secondly, slavery is not mentioned in the Declaration of Independence - quite purposefully, though for two reasons. First, it is not the intent of the document to establish laws of the land, but instead to proclaim the existence of a new nation. Second, the authors wanted to address it more directly and explicitly, and even tried in early drafts, but the issue was so contentious that to even bring it up would have been to threaten the very revolution they were trying to spur.

Yes, the founding fathers owned slaves - no getting around that. But they were also intelligent enough to realize that you can't just set all the slaves free without setting up an economy that can handle that kind of massive influx into the work force - not to mention slowly creating a society that could incorporate former slaves into its culture and society. It was certainly the intention of George Washington to abolish slavery, but he too realized that this new nation was massively in debt, teetering on the brink of its own civil war almost all the time in the early days, and in so many ways just not ready to get rid of slavery... in fact, he must have realized in a way that it was a necessary evil, which is why the founding fathers agreed to address slavery with a legal moritorium on the issue until 1809.

Now, it should go without saying, but we all know it can't - let me state for the record that slavery is wrong no matter what historical context you take. But at the same time, there exists a paradox on the issue of slavery in regards to founding of this country - especially when you consider that without it, it is very possible we wouldn't be celebrating July 4th in the first place. Perhaps we would be celebrating Cinco de Mayo here in California, Texans would be celebrating Texan Independence Day (Hurrah), and the North and South would each have their own holidays as well.
/\/\/\/ had this to say (07/07/2003 11:08:04):
Your insights on the founding of the country are fantastic, but I have to disagree with you on your very first point. The use of the phrase "Indian Savages" is not just indicative of the rhetorical style of the time. It is indicative of an entire mindset that was pervasive at the time and would only begin to seriously break down in the twentieth century -- a mindset that holds that the White Man is the apotheosis of intelligence and civilization. We don't use phrases like "Indian Savages" in our legal documents any longer because, as a society, we are more enlightened than we once were. (And of course, we still have a long way to go.)
Byrne had this to say (07/07/2003 16:44:03):
Fair point - but remember, the DoI is not a text of law - it is a declaration. In it says, (roughly) "Georgie did (a), he did (b) and he conscripted a bunch a savage people to kill us. Not cool. We therefore declare ourselves to be independant. So there!." Or something like that. ;)

You are right - there is a mindset of that generation that parts of our country still can't shake...

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