Put the fireworks in storage.
Cancel the parade.
Tuck the soaring speeches in a drawer for another time.
This year, America doesn't deserve to celebrate its birthday. This Fourth of July should be a day of quiet and atonement.
For we have sinned.
We have failed to pay attention. We've settled for lame excuses. We've spit on the memory of those who did that brave, brave thing in Philadelphia 232 years ago.
The America those men founded should never torture a prisoner.
The America they founded should never imprison people for years without charge or hearing.
The America they founded should never ship prisoners to foreign lands, knowing their new jailers might torture them.
Such abuses once were committed by the arrogant crowns of Europe, spawning rebellion.
Today, our nation does such things in the name of our safety. Petrified, unwilling to take the risks that love of liberty demands, we close our eyes.
Yet they pledged their lives and sacred honor - no idle vow - to defend the "inalienable rights" of men. Inalienable - what does that signify? It means rights that belong to each person, simply by virtue of being human. Rights that can never be taken away, no matter what evil a person might do or might intend.
Surely one of those is the right not to be tortured. Surely that is a piece of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
But what will history think of us, of how we responded to our great challenge? Sept. 11 was a hideous evil, a grievous wound. Yet, truth told, it has not summoned our better angels as often as our worst.
We have betrayed the July 4 creed. We trample the vows we make, hand to heart.
Don't imagine that only the torturer's hand bears the guilt. The guilt reaches deep inside our Capitol, and beyond that - to us.
Our silence is complicit. In our name, innocents were jailed, humans tortured, our Constitution mangled. And we said so little.
Let us atone, in quiet and humility. Let us spend the day truly studying the example of our Founders. May we earn a new birth of courage before our nation's birthday next rolls around.
Saturday, July 05, 2008
Forget the Fourth
What Chris Satullo says (via). It's a day late and we already had the fireworks, but this is about exactly what I was thinking the whole time.