Saturday, July 11, 2020

Friday, July 10, 2020

Happy Friday

According to Charles P. Pierce, yesterday was a pretty good day.

“And, on fourth-and-15, here comes veteran John Roberts, back to kick. Takes the snap, and it’s a long one. Waaayyy down the field. It takes a huge Camp Runamuck bounce and it goes out of bounds, pinning the Republic back on its own three-yard line. Roberts really outkicked his coverage…”

I’m sorry about that. God, I’ve got to get another sportswriting gig.

The Supreme Court on Thursday did what most people expected it to do on the matter of El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago’s financial records. It denied Congress’s attempt to subpoena the material, but it did rule that New York County DA Cyrus Vance, Jr. one day could go gamboling through the vast vista of scams and grifts and frauds likely contained therein. Indeed, in ruling in Vance’s favor, Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the Court’s unanimous opinion on that point:

No citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding.

This is a major statement on presidential power and, in that regard, it can rank with US v. Nixon and Jones v. Clinton. And hooray for that. (As far as the congressional subpoenas go, there is at least an arguable separation-of-powers claim to be made. Clearly, Roberts swung the entire Court onto the institutionalist side of his conscience. I wouldn’t make it, but it’s at least worth piling up the billable hours on.)

But the two rulings also ensure that he country will not get to see this information any time before the November election. The case of the congressional subpoenas will go back into the maelstrom of the lower courts. Vance was clearly luckier than Congress was but, after Vance’s own fandango in the lower courts, all of the documents under subpoena will go to a grand jury, the proceedings of which will be secret and, therefore, the information in the documents will remain inaccessible, at least for the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, the president* responded on the electric Twitter machine by going utterly bananas.

PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!

“We know what took place. We have already seen criminality. What is happening? Biggest political scandal of our time.” @MariaBartiromo You are 100% correct, Maria, it is a disgrace that nothing happens. Obama and Biden spied on my campaign, AND GOT CAUGHT…BUT NOTHING!

PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT!

We have a totally corrupt previous Administration, including a President and Vice President who spied on my campaign, AND GOT CAIGHT…and nothing happens to them. This crime was taking place even before my election, everyone knows it, and yet all are frozen stiff with fear….

No Republican Senate Judiciary response, NO “JUSTICE”, NO FBI, NO NOTHING. Major horror show REPORTS on Comey & McCabe, guilty as hell, nothing happens. Catch Obama & Biden cold, nothing. A 3 year, $45,000,000 Mueller HOAX, failed – investigated everything…

.for another President. This is about PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT. We catch the other side SPYING on my campaign, the biggest political crime and scandal in U.S. history, and NOTHING HAPPENS. But despite this, I have done more than any President in history in first 3 1/2 years!

This certainly sounds like the reasoned rebuttal of an innocent man.

(For the historical record, here’s how the Nixon White House, through attorney James St. Clair, responded to the 8-0 decision demanding that he hand over the subpoenaed White House tapes: “[The president] has always been a firm believer in the rule of law.”)

All in all, it was a pretty good day for the Republic, although it’s still got a long way to go before it hits pay dirt. And hope does spring eternal. After all, in the other decision by the Court on Thursday, almost half of the state of Oklahoma was determined to belong to Native Americans. Wrote Justice Neil Gorsuch (!):

On the far end of the Trail of Tears was a promise. Forced to leave their ancestral lands in Georgia and Alabama, the Creek Nation received assurances that their new lands in the West would be secure forever. In exchange for ceding “all their land, East of the Mississippi river,” the U. S. government agreed by treaty that “[t]he Creek country west of the Mississippi shall be solemnly guarantied to the Creek Indians.” The government further promised that “[no] State or Territory [shall] ever have a right to pass laws for the government of such Indians, but they shall be allowed to govern themselves.” Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law. Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word.

The “government” to which Gorsuch is referring was sitting in 1832. Andrew Jackson was president. John C. Calhoun was vice president. Henry Clay and Daniel Webster were in the Senate. John Quincy Adams and James K. Polk were in the House. John Fcking Marshall was still Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Of course, shortly thereafter, the Jackson Administration began the genocidal campaign that ended with the Trail of Tears that brought the tribes. including the Creek people, from their ancestral lands in the southeastern United States to Oklahoma where, on Thursday, the Supreme Court ordered the United States to live up to the deal it cut with those folks lucky enough to have survived.

Mills of the gods. Arc of the moral universe, and all that. If the Creek people can wait this long to settle a land case, we can be patient about a bunch of paperwork from Deutsche Bank.

In other news, I am happy to announce that “All Together Again,” the long-awaited sequel to my award-winning play “All Together Now,” has now been published by Smith Scripts. Check it out, or better yet, order a copy.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 9, 2020

POTUS Tantrum

Via TPM:

Trump blew up on Twitter after the Supreme Court ruled that his tax returns must be handed over to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance on Thursday morning.

Trump complained that he will “have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York” thanks to the ruling.

“Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!” the President tweeted.

“Courts in the past have given ‘broad deference.’ BUT NOT ME!” he wrote in a second tweet approximately a minute later.

The tantrum continued in the form of a barely coherent Twitter thread in which Trump raved on about his bogus conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama’s administration was supposedly “spying” on his 2016 campaign.

“We have a totally corrupt previous Administration, including a President and Vice President who spied on my campaign, AND GOT CAUGHT…and nothing happens to them,” Trump tweeted. “This crime was taking place even before my election, everyone knows it, and yet all are frozen stiff with fear….No Republican Senate Judiciary response, NO ‘JUSTICE,’ NO FBI, NO NOTHING.”

The President also ranted that the Supreme Court had made a ruling that they “would never have given for another President.”

Trump’s own appointed justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, were part of the seven-person majority in the decision.

The President was still furiously sounding off on Twitter by noontime, tweeting “POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”

The UNFAIR! rant doesn’t work unless you’re five and told to clean up your room THIS MINUTE.  And even then.

For the adults in the room, the opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts cited precedent as far back as Aaron Burr’s trial for treason in 1807 for successfully subpoenaing a president for his records. (And you don’t have to watch “Hamilton” to know that.) Two other presidents tried unsuccessfully to quash subpoenas — Nixon and Clinton — and they both lost.

It’s unlikely that the records will become public before he leaves office in January, but then he’ll be just an ordinary citizen again and the SDNY can indict him.

Harsh Reality

Trump is threatening to cut off funding to schools that do not fully re-open, virus or not.

Trump on Wednesday intensified his demand that schools fully reopen this fall, slamming the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pressuring it to loosen guidance and threatening to cut funding for schools that do not open.

The CDC was already planning to issue new guidelines for schools in the coming days. But Vice President Pence on Wednesday explicitly tied the effort to Trump’s ire.

“The president said today we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough,” Pence told reporters. “And that’s the reason next week the CDC is going to be issuing a new set of tools.”

Pence, speaking at a briefing of the White House coronavirus task force, was replying to a question about the CDC’s recommendation that students be kept six feet apart to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

School officials across the country have concluded they cannot fully reopen while following that guidance, because classrooms are too small to accommodate all students with the recommended distancing.

Just so you know, the president — whoever he/she is — cannot just “cut off funding.”  Neither the Department of Education nor the OMB can do that.  The only power the USDOE holds over local public schools is the ability to not reimburse school districts for the expenditures they have made on behalf of federal grants that were already funded by Congress.  So what Trump said — surprise! — is bullshit.

But doesn’t mean that it won’t have an impact on the school systems. From a teacher here in Miami via Facebook:

So apparently the federal government wants us all back in the classroom no matter what, so the guidelines that the CDC has put out (having students and teachers being six feet apart) will likely be watered down to fit an election agenda. There is not enough data on how much transmission can occur from kids (although due to increased lung capacity, kids in middle school and up likely have a higher ability to do so than smaller kids) but until we have a 14 day period where there isn’t an increase in cases locally, I do NOT feel safe going back in a brick and mortar setting. While distance learning is not the same and has its notable cons, my health and those of my colleagues are not being adequately considered by this administration. Please,if you don’t work in a classroom…don’t post here. You want to insert yourself into the convo? Then get a teaching certificate.

Ironically, the Florida Department of Education is pouring money into grant programs to provide schools with funds to do remote learning and to provide for infrastructure support to make the schools safe.

There’s another harsh reality: the toll on the mental state of people who have been isolated by the necessary precautions taken to prevent the spread of the virus. I’m thinking of people in retirement facilities who cannot be visited by relatives or who have been left behind by the toll.  Via my sister on Facebook:

The other group suffering from Covid are the grieving and depressed survivors of the covid death of a loved one who is then left in loneliness and isolation. Giving up on life. “Nothing to live for. Can’t see my family. The isolation is so painful and so depressing!”

But the harshest reality of all of this could have been prevented or allayed or brought swiftly under control were this country not being run by a sociopath and his fawning minions who care more about their political future or fear a midnight tweet from him. When it’s all over, they have to be held accountable.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Family Business

It may sound strange coming from a playwright who has written a lot of family dramas (take your pick from among them here at Smith Scripts), but I don’t plan on reading or really caring about Mary Trump’s tell-all book about life in her family.  It reveals embarrassing things about her uncle and her relatives, and the only reason the stories are newsworthy is because her uncle is currently occupying government housing in Washington and his actions — and inactions — have an impact on the lives of people who are not related to her.

The fact that he was an abused child and has been craving attention and adulation ever since is not news either in real life or on stage; every family has that history.  The fact that we are feeling the aftershocks means that we have to deal with the present; we can’t go back and change how he and we got there.  If this was a play, it would have to be laid out very carefully so as not to deflect the audience’s attention from the rising action on stage.  And it would have to mean something later on in the story — Chekhov’s famous imprecation that if you show a gun in Act I, it must go off in Act III — which means that beyond being just a foundation element of the character, his childhood antics and grudges have to be a part of the dramatic climax, and most importantly, there would have to be a profound change in the lead character as a result.  That’s not going to happen here.

The only thing that the book seems to reveal is that the Trump family financial empire is built on fraud and malfeasance, something we’ve always suspected.  The Supreme Court is set to rule in some fashion on the lawsuit regarding Trump’s taxes this week; maybe as soon as today.  That may be the big reveal in Act III and the gun goes off.  But this isn’t a play.

More’s the pity.  If all of this was just a play, we’d get to the merciful end, the curtain would come down, and we could all go out into the night with our biggest concern being whether or not we can find a place for a late-night snack.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Damn The Virus, Full Speed Ahead

Cases of Covid-19 are soaring in Florida, but that’s not going to stop Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and his minions from doing his piety to Trump by demanding that public schools reopen in the fall.

Florida’s top school official issued a sweeping executive order Monday requiring all schools in the state to reopen their buildings for in-person instruction for the coming school year, even as coronavirus cases in the state continued to rise.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, a Republican and former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, issued the order, which states that “school districts and charter school governing boards must provide the full array of services that are required by law so that families who wish to educate their children in a brick and mortar school full time have the opportunity to do so.”

Many districts, including the Miami-Dade school system, have proposed offering multiple options for schooling, including hybrid models that would incorporate online and in-person learning. The order requires schools to offer full-time instruction “at least” five days a week for families who desire it.

The order leaves room for local health officials to override it. Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho called the order “fair and measured.”

The announcement comes the same day President Trump tweeted, “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!” In a later tweet, he said those hesitating to reopen schools amid a global pandemic were politically motivated: “Corrupt Joe Biden and the Democrats don’t want to open schools in the Fall for political reasons, not for health reasons! They think it will help them in November. Wrong, the people get it!”

So basically Mr. Corcoran made a lot of noise and then basically said go ahead and do what you want. For the record, we will. Despite the talk from Tallahassee, the Florida Department of Education is making millions of dollars available to public and charter schools to provide for remote learning and, if the schools choose to re-open for face-to-face learning, money to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) and all the accoutrements that go along with enforcing CDC guidelines for social distancing.

What it all comes down to is that the Republican governors are realizing that against all prudent advice they re-opened bars, restaurants, and other businesses only to have the infection rate soar and they have to deal with it all over again.

The pandemic map of the United States burned bright red Monday, with the number of new coronavirus infections during the first six days of July nearing 300,000 as more states and cities moved to reimpose shutdown orders.

After an Independence Day weekend that attracted large crowds to fireworks displays and produced scenes of Americans drinking and partying without masks, health officials warned of hospitals running out of space and infection spreading rampantly. The United States is “still knee deep in the first wave” of the pandemic, Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Monday

Fauci noted that while Europe managed to drive infections down — and now is dealing with little blips as it reopens — U.S. communities “never came down to baseline and now are surging back up,” he said in an interview conducted on Twitter and Facebook with his boss, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins.

Despite President Trump’s claim that 99 percent of covid-19 cases are “harmless,” Arizona and Nevada have reported their highest numbers of coronavirus-related hospitalizations in recent days. The seven-day averages in 12 states hit new highs, with the biggest increases in West Virginia, Tennessee and Montana. The country’s rolling seven-day average of daily new cases hit a record high Monday — the 28th record-setting day in a row.

But we were told it would all “disappear.”

Monday, July 6, 2020

Enablers

From the Washington Post:

Trump’s unyielding push to preserve Confederate symbols and the legacy of white domination, crystallized by his harsh denunciation of the racial justice movement Friday night at Mount Rushmore, has unnerved Republicans who have long enabled him but now fear losing power and forever associating their party with his racial animus.

Although amplifying racism and stoking culture wars have been mainstays of Trump’s public identity for decades, they have been particularly pronounced this summer as the president has reacted to the national reckoning over systemic discrimination by seeking to weaponize the anger and resentment of some white Americans for his own political gain.

Trump has left little doubt through his utterances the past few weeks that he sees himself not only as the Republican standard-bearer but as leader of a modern grievance movement animated by civic strife and marked by calls for “white power,” the phrase chanted by one of his supporters in a video the president shared last weekend on Twitter. He later deleted the video but did not disavow its message.

So what do the Republicans do? They shake their heads in private and keep their mouth shut, at least in public.

On Capitol Hill, some Republicans fret — mostly privately, to avoid his wrath — that Trump’s fixation on racial and other cultural issues leaves their party running against the currents of change. Coupled with the coronavirus pandemic and related economic crisis, these Republicans fear he is not only seriously impairing his reelection chances but also jeopardizing the GOP Senate majority and its strength in the House.

“The Senate incumbent candidates are not taking the bait and are staying as far away from this as they can,” said Scott Reed, a veteran Republican operative and chief strategist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has invested heavily in keeping GOP control of the Senate. “The problem is this is no longer just Trump’s Twitter feed. It’s expanded to the podium, and that makes it more and more difficult for these campaigns.”

Trump has all but ignored the outcry and remains convinced that following his own instincts on race and channeling the grievances of his core base of white voters will carry him to victory against former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, according to a White House official and an outside Trump adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment candidly.

To quote Digby: These are cowardly, opportunistic, Vichy collaborators. And they must never be allowed to forget what they have done.

How Was Your Weekend?

Better than Trump’s.

With the coronavirus pandemic raging and his campaign faltering in the polls, his appearance amounted to a fiery reboot of his re-election effort, using the holiday and an official presidential address to mount a full-on culture war against a straw-man version of the left that he portrayed as inciting mayhem and moving the country toward totalitarianism…

The scene at Mount Rushmore was the latest sign of how Mr. Trump appears, by design or default, increasingly disconnected from the intense concern among Americans about the health crisis gripping the country. More than just a partisan rally, it underscored the extent to which Mr. Trump is appealing to a subset of Americans to carry him to a second term by changing the subject and appealing to fear and division…

[…]

Throughout his presidency, Mr. Trump has tried to bend events to his will, often using social media to drive home his alternate version of reality and, thanks to the power of repetition and the loyal support of his base, sometimes succeeding. But the president’s attempt to drive deeper into the culture wars around a national holiday, during an intensifying health crisis that will not yield to his tactics, risked coming across as out of sync with the concerned mood of the country at a moment when his re-election campaign is struggling and unfocused.

This is from the New York Times, which heretofore has been basically a weaselly template for bothsiderism: “Sun rises in the East; some disagree.” But it’s getting to the point where even the most objective observers have to acknowledge that whatever Trump is selling isn’t being bought by the people he needs to win another term, and those who do buy it could be sick or dead by the time November comes around.

Meanwhile, the plague rampages on. Texas and Florida had exponential growth in Covid-19 infections.

At least two counties in South Texas say they have hospitals already at full capacity. This comes after officials in Texas, California and Arizona rolled back their reopening plans. In Florida, however, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said last week that the state was “not going back” on reopening, saying younger people were driving the spike but that they were at lesser risk than older people.

Republican Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez called the growth “extremely worrisome,” and said the growth was partially due to the early reopening of the state.

Gov. DeSantis is echoing his hero and not taking responsibility for the surge in infections.

Gov. Ron DeSantis would not take any responsibility for Florida’s skyrocketing coronavirus numbers Thursday, just hours after the state recorded its highest single day of new cases with more than 10,000.

“Well, do you give credit for Florida for having much lower fatalities per 100,000 than all the states you just praised?” DeSantis told a reporter who asked about Florida and other Southern states’ case numbers compared with the Northeast.

“We have fewer fatalities than some of those states have just in nursing homes,‘’ he said. “And we’re more populated than all of those. So we’ve worked very hard to protect the most vulnerable … and I think that the numbers bear that out.”

Florida reported a record-setting 10,109 coronavirus cases Thursday for a total of 169,106, and 67 new fatalities to bring the death toll to 3,617.

“I don’t think anyone predicted a Sun Belt resurgence in mid-June, but we had the infrastructure in place,‘’ DeSantis said. “And we’re in a much better place to be able to deal with this as a result of it.”

Yes, a lot of people predicted a Sun Belt resurgence in mid-June, which is two weeks after the state virtually threw caution to the winds and opened the beaches for Memorial Day. So, yes, those are on you. Maybe you’ll choke on it, if you’re lucky.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Sunday Reading

Speaking of Shithole Countries — Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic.

There is a lot of learned material written about nationalism—scholarly books and papers, histories of it, theories of it—but most of us understand that nationalism, at its heart, at its very deepest roots, is about a feeling of superiority: We are better than you. Our country is better than your country. Or even—and apologies, but this is the precise language deployed by the president of the United States: Your country is a shithole country. Ours isn’t.

In this sense, nationalism is not patriotism, which is the desire to work on behalf of your fellow citizens, to defend common values, to build something positive. Nationalism is not community spirit either, which seeks to pull people together. Nationalism has nothing to do with democratic values: Authoritarians can be nationalists; indeed, most are. Nationalism has nothing to do with the rule of law, justice, or opportunity. At its core, nationalism is rather a competition, an ugly and negative competition. There’s a reason nationalists build walls, denigrate foreigners, and denounce immigrants: Because our people are better than those people. There’s a reason nationalism has so often become violent in the past. For if we—our nation—are better, then what right do others have to live beside us? Or to occupy land that we covet? Or even, maybe, to live at all?

Sure, people pretend otherwise. We’re just defending our right to be unique! We just want everyone to stay in their own country! We just like our own culture! But that’s not really what nationalists think, and everyone knows it. They can nod and wink at equality among nations, but really they are motivated by, driven by, addicted to a feeling of superiority. Our county is better than your country. So stay out.

I hear this when Donald Trump uses the slogan “America First”: This is why he needs a physical wall at the Mexican border; this is the source of his dislike for immigrants, for people with unfamiliar surnames or different skin colors. He regards all of them as lesser, inferior people who somehow got inside our borders and made our country worse. He and the claque who support him repeat these things over and over again because this kind of nationalism requires reinforcement. It thrives on stories and pictures, songs and chants, repetition. It needs a constant stream of evidence, constant proof of superiority.

But what happens when the stream stops? What happens when the stories and pictures no longer match? More to the point, what will Trump do, what will his followers and admirers do, when their understanding of the world is flipped on its head? What will happen when they realize that other countries are building walls between them and the United States?

Here it’s worth pointing out a genuine oddity: The world in the age of the coronavirus should be a nationalist’s paradise. Borders have slammed shut. Countries have fallen back on their own resources. Multiple international institutions have failed, in major and minor ways, starting with the World Health Organization, the one group that was explicitly created for this moment, and continuing on to the G-7, whose members can’t even manage to meet for coffee.

And yet, has there ever been a more global moment? Everyone in the world is living in the same isolation, with the same fears. Everyone is working on the same vaccines, exchanging notes about the same cures. Everyone is trying to solve the same medical, psychological, and economic problems. Everyone is dealing with a virus that seems completely uninterested in the national origins of the people it infects. More to the point, everyone can look at everyone else’s country, read its media and social media, see how its institutions are coping with the crisis. We can’t leave our houses, but we can meet in cyberspace, where we can keep talking.

While we are there, we can see how other countries are dealing with the pandemic. Some are doing well, especially those that have decent bureaucrats, respect for science, and high levels of trust: South Korea and Taiwan, Germany and Slovakia, much of Scandinavia, New Zealand. Some countries are not doing well, especially those run by divisive populists on both the left and the right: Russia, Brazil, Mexico, and, of course, the United States. But even within this latter group, we stand out. Out of all these countries—out of all the countries in the world—the U.S. has the largest number of cases and the highest death toll. The U.S. isn’t merely suffering; the U.S. is suffering more than anybody else.

The numbers of American sick and dead are a source of wonder and marvel all over the world. They also inspire fear and anxiety. The European Union has decided to allow some foreigners to cross its borders now, but not Americans. Uruguayans and Rwandans can go to Italy and Spain, but not Americans. Moroccans and Tunisians can go to Germany and Greece, but not Americans. For the first time in living memory, Canada has kept its border closed with the United States. On July 3, the governor of the Mexican state of Sonora delivered the coup de grace: She announced the temporary closure of the border with Arizona and banned Americans from Sonoran beaches.

How will American nationalists cope with this new situation? I’m guessing many will pretend, like the president, that this isn’t happening: Months into the crisis, he has once again expressed the belief that the virus will magically “disappear.” But for some, it will be difficult to prevent the intrusion of reality: The stupid and pointless competition among nations continues in their heads—and they are losing. A major reckoning is coming. It can’t arrive too soon.

Doonesbury — Paying for it.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Glorious Fourth

Flags in the Rain 07-03-14When I was a kid I was very outgoing in putting up displays for the holidays — Memorial Day, Christmas, the Fourth of July. I liked the flags, the lights, the stuff. It was cool to make a big splash. But as I grew up I grew out of it, and today I don’t go much for things like that. I don’t have a flag to fly on national holidays, and the most I’ll do for Christmas is a wreath on the door because it has good memories and the scent of pine is rare in subtropical Florida.

I suppose it has something to do with my Quaker notions of shunning iconography — outward symbols can’t show how you truly feel about something on the inside — and more often than not they are used to make up for the lack of a true belief. This is also true of patriotism: waving the flag — or wrapping yourself in it — is a poor and false measure of how you truly feel about your country.

There’s an old saying that there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. As Benjamin Franklin noted, no country had ever been formed because of an idea. But when the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in 1776 and passed the resolution embodied in the Declaration of Independence, that was what was being done: create a nation not based on geographical boundaries, property, tribalism, or religion, but on the idea of forming a new government to replace the present form because the rulers were incompetent, uncaring, and cruel. The American Revolution wasn’t so much a rebellion as it was a cry for attention. Most of the Declaration is a punch-list, if you will, of grievances both petty and grand against the Crown, and once the revolution was over and the new government was formed, the Constitution contained many remedies to prevent the slights and injuries inflicted under colonialism: the Bill of Rights is a direct response to many of the complaints listed in the Declaration.

But the Declaration of Independence goes beyond complaints. Its preamble is a mission statement. It proclaims our goals and what we hope to achieve. No nation had ever done that before, and to this day we are still struggling to achieve life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness goes on with no sign of let-up.

That is the true glory of America. Not that we complain — and we do — but that we work to fix those complaints. To put them right. To make things better than they were. To give hope to people who feel that they have no voice, and to assure that regardless of who they are, where they come from, what they look like, who they love, or what they believe, there will be room for them to grow, do, and become whatever it is that they have the capacity to be. It’s a simple idea, but the simplest ideas often have the most powerful impact.

This nation has achieved many great things. We’ve inspired other nations and drawn millions to our shores not to just escape their own country but to participate in what we’re doing. And we’ve made mistakes. We’ve blundered and fumbled and bullied and injured. We’ve treated some of our own citizens with contempt, and shown the same kind of disregard for the rights of others that we enumerated in our own Declaration of Independence. We have been guilty of arrogance and hypocrisy. But these are all human traits, and we are, after all, human. The goal of government is to rise above humanity, and the goal of humanity is to strive for perfection. So if we stumble on the road to that goal, it is only because we are moving forward.

I love this country not for what it is but for what it could be. In my own way I show my patriotism not by waving a flag from my front porch but by working to make things work in our system and by adding to the discussion that will bring forth ideas to improve our lives and call into question the ideas of others. It is all a part of what makes the simple idea of life, liberty, and that elusive happiness so compelling and so inspiring, and what makes me very proud to be a part of this grand experiment.

Go forth!

Photo: The Avenue in the Rain by Frederick Childe Hassam 1917.

[This post originally appeared on July 4, 2005.]

Friday, July 3, 2020

Happy Friday

It’s the long Fourth of July weekend.  So what do you do when you’re supposed to stay home and social distance?  Watch from your back porch.

Thursday, July 2, 2020