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On Decorations and Democracy

It's weird. I moved offices at the beginning of the summer (I had changed jobs, so it kind of went without saying I needed to change offices). My last office was 'decorated' somewhat randomly. Bookshelves full of books, a large collection of toys that students and friends gave me over time, piles of kipple... that sort of thing.

When I moved to my new office, for whatever reason I decided to decorate it. I got a "Sacrifice" Demotivator for one wall, right next to a whiteboard and a piece of digital art I produced (one of the few bits of art I've done that I feel really happy with. On the opposite wall I have the famous Picasso "spider painting" of Don Quixote, because my father had that same print in his own office and because Don Quixote just feels right to me. On my bulletin board I have pictures of my sister and my nieces, plus postcards and the like from friends. (And my "Republicans for Voldemort" bumper sticker, which both Democrats and Republicans get a huge kick out of.) Opposite my desk, I have a small framed sheet of the "Comic Strip Classics" postage stamp set from a few years ago.

And finally... I have something I picked up at the Battle of Benneton monument last September -- a "historical documents" set. It only cost four bucks for four different sheets -- a bargain. They're all printed on yellow, rumpled paper designed to look 'old.' It's just ink on distressed paper, but it works.

So, by my desk I have a reproduction of the Declaration of Independence. On the inside of my office door, I have the Bill of Rights. Behind me, on the wall, I have the Constitution of the United States. The fourth 'document,' the Gettysburg Address, didn't interest me as much, so it's tucked into the bookcase right now. I'm a lot more of a Revolutionary War buff, anyhow.

The Revolution was really remarkable, when you think of it. At its core, it was fought for idealistic purposes. Not for monetary ones (oh sure, taxation issues were at the the forefront, as well as deeper issues like the injunction against the colonies developing their own industrial base, but those were symptomatic), but for idealistic ones. Read Common Sense sometime, or any given example of Ben Franklin's editorials from the period. Or John Adams's diaries or letters. They were doing this because they believed, with all their heart, that we have the right and the responsibility to choose our own destiny. We had the right and responsibility to have a voice in our own future. We had the right and responsibility for our own Sovereignty.

Remarkable. Astounding, really.

In the 228 years since the Declaration I've got hanging in my office was signed, we've made a lot of boneheaded moves. We've gotten it wrong a lot of the time. We've lost sight of who we are as a people and what we stand for as a Nation. But so so so much more often we've gotten it right. We've expanded our definitions of liberty, of citizenship, of the very Republic. We've taken a moral stand as a people, and declared our principles as well as our interests. We've grown to be the dominant nation on this planet, at least for now.

I get angry, a lot, at the American political leadership. I get angry when they disagree with me. I get angry when I can see a better way. I get angry at petty corruption and special interests and corporate greed. And sometimes, I even lose heart. And I never lose heart as much as when it seems like my fellow Americans just don't give a rat's ass. When they don't vote, or when they prove they have no idea what the issues are they're voting about.

But I never stop being proud. I'm proud to be an American. I'm proud to be the inheritor of a legacy born of ideals, of liberty and freedom, of rights and responsibilities. I'm proud of my Nation.

That's why I have the closest things we have to national sacred documents up on the walls of my office. And when I'm at my darkest hour, I can look at them and remember that it looked pretty bleak during the Revolution, too. "These are the times that try men's souls" indeed. But they held on, and eventually they won a Nation.

Today, the single most sacred ritual in American Society will be conducted throughout the Nation. Today, we have the right and the responsibility to come together in common caucus and express our opinions and our beliefs. We have the right and the responsibility to set the course for the next four years on the National Level... as well as the next two or six years depending on individual state elections. This ritual is crucial -- not just to America, but to people all over the world. (Which is one reason I don't mind writing about this topic even though my readership is international. What we Americans do today will have an impact on them as well, and they will be watching.)

Today, we vote.

If you truly have no understanding of the issues... if you're truly "undecided" because you just haven't bothered to learn the differences between candidates or if you think it'll be really funny to write in a porn star or cartoon character's name on the ballot... then please, stay home. Let the adults handle this.

If you are decided... or if you're "undecided" because you've learned so much and you're balancing the pros and cons and you're just not sure which way it will break... then please. For me. For your fellow Americans. For the people of the world. For the people of the Revolution who fought and died to give you this sacred right, this sacred responsibility, and this sacred trust... vote.

And if you're a praying person, please, pray that all goes smoothly today and that by, oh, midnight tonight we know who's won. Because if we have to go through another month of this bullshit, I'm going to have to throw myself into a wood chipper. And the Founding Fathers wouldn't like that one bit.

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Comments

Hear hear!

(speaking as a Brit...)

If you really think that the Revolutionary War was fought by noble patiots acting from idealism, you need to take a look at

http://tinyurl.com/48elr

I don't think it. I know it. I've done considerably reading and research with primary sources (I'm researching a trilogy of novels, and I'm obsessive about getting it right, because I'm like that), including private correspondence. I'm aware of the Holmes thesis and, while I certainly don't dismiss it, it's far more biased to its own conclusion than it is developing a conclusion from the facts.

It wasn't Imperialist France that kept freezing men at Valley Forge when their enlistments expired in the middle of the winter. It was (largely) Thomas Paine's "The Crisis." Greed could have kept Ben Franklin advocating reconciliation -- he had originally gone to London to seek a royal patent of land in Western Pennsylvania -- but it was outrage over the practices of the Penn family and the government that forged him into a radical voice for Independence. And John Adams courted financial ruin the entire time he was engaged in the enterprise. He was an arrogant jerk, but you can't call him any friend of the French Elite or profiteer.

At its core, a lot of people with no training and no practical reason to think they could succeed put their lives on the line because, in the end, they had been denied the same voice in their own affairs that all other British Subjects enjoyed. No amount of revisionism can change that.

(As for Holmes's points about Native American and Black points of view during this whole conflict -- not to mention the near enslavement of the Hessians by their Lords to fight for the Lords' profit in America -- these are far easier to verify and validate. The Revolution had plenty of darkness in it. But that didn't change the core idealism that created a Monarchless State, and that didn't change the fact that a lot of people starved, froze and died to get it there.)

Actually, there -is- a porn star on the ballot.

At least in Utah, the only state the Personal Choice Party got on the ballot in. Charles Jay's vice-presidential running mate is Marilyn Chambers, as in the 1970s classic "Behind the Green Door" and other pioneering hardcore erotica. She's 60 now, but at least from the neck up, she's still got it. }:-{D

So if you have readers in Utah today, they won't need to -write in- a porn star.

Kris Overstreet (voted Libertarian)

You make an important point passionate and eloquently - and defend it well against trolls.

But it's too late.

I, for one, welcome our new, shiny, reissued overlords.

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