From elementary school on there are certain events that American school children are told of over and over and over again. Because America does not have a history nearly as long as nations like England, it is easy, I suppose, to latch on to certain stories or events and repeat them until American kids are honestly tired of hearing them before they reach high school. However, hearing these events as children and understanding them fully as adults are two very different things. Take the Revolution, all that led up to it, and the influence of the things that fueled Colonial fires toward the English crown upon the things that were put into the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, for example. From the first time we sat in a history or social studies class we were told that men like Thomas Jefferson fought for independence because of the way the colonists were treated by the king across the ocean who ruled them, that this is why it was important to the men that when they won, when a new nation rose from the ashes of the bloody Revolutionary War, this nation be ruled by the will of the people. A government that made decisions that went against the people, a government that denied innocent people basic human rights, a government that represented its own interest instead of the best interest of those who elected them would not be tolerated. That was everything these men stood against. Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Washington, these men were men of the Enlightened Age. So much of what they believed about government came from the ideas of a philosopher named John Locke and if you have never read his work, you should. It is here that you will gain a clear perspective on what America was supposed to be. Of course, no one told us about Locke or his ideas in school. That I learned later on. And it was from this knowledge that I shaped my own principals of right and wrong where the direction of the country is concerned, just like the Founding Fathers had before me.
The importance concerning the separation of Church and State came from two sources. The first was simply the ideas of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was an age where free thinking people grew very very tired of the massive influence of the Christian churches on government affairs. They were sick of religious leaders who stifled the truths of science, setting back the progress of scientific discovery over and over again, because science was uncovering undisputed facts that went in opposition with what the Bible said. They were tired of rulers who allowed this, who agreed with this, even at the expense of human lives as in the case with inoculations. The Founding Fathers of America had also seen first hand the way that the Church of England influenced England and the hold it had on the people there. And they wanted neither scenarios to ever be a problem in America. Yet it has been. Over and over again, even today. This past weekend the state of Ohio signed a budget into law that will all but strip state funding from Planned Parenthood. The money "saved" from this action will not go back to the state for the good of the people. It will be sent to Christian organizations that talk women out of having abortions. Why did our governor sign such a piece of trash into law? Because, as he stated, he is pro-life (pro-birth). The fact that the majority of the people in this state were against it, that this action seems to violate that pesky thing about separating church and state, and he is not the king of Ohio who is allowed to do what he wants but actually an American elected official is completely irrelevant. This is the same state that has one of the largest homosexual populations in an American city in our capital city and it has been made quite clear to our governor that the people here, the majority of us, want marriage equality in the state of Ohio yet he refuses to consider it because, as he told us, HE believes marriage is as the Bible states, between a man and a woman. Gee, that is exactly what the men who built this nation from the wreckage of war wanted when they wrote in what are now seen as suggestions within our national constitution protecting us from this sort of crap, huh? Oh, and let us not forget that there are states who feel it is ok for a child to learn creationism as opposed to science in a science class or the fact that the majority of "leaders" in America deny their homosexual citizens the basic human right to marry because it is against their own religious ideas...same goes for the fight against abortions where most people who want them made illegal do not believe it should be treated as a crime where a woman is arrested for having one but just that it is religiously wrong....And yet those of us who stand against these things are the ones so commonly called unpatriotic? Is that so? Why? We are the ones defending the concepts this country was actually founded on.
If the Declaration of Independence were being signed today instead of more than two centuries ago and those who signed it had the same foundation for their beliefs, ALL people would truly be created equal in this country. The Tea Party and others like them would not be able to say that freedom of religion doesn't include my religion because it isn't specifically named, that women are not equal because no such provision was written into the constitution originally, or that homosexuals have no right to marriage because where does one see that in the fine print of the constitution? Ignoring history is all so convenient for them. They disregard it the same way they disregard science. They take the revolutionary, damn near counter-culture-like men who started it all and they paint this inaccurate, almost stupid portrait of them as Christian soldiers who founded a Christian nation based upon Christian ideals and that they gave rights only to straight white men because that was truly what they wanted while disregarding the fact that it was 1776. If they had dared to make women equal to men, people of color equal to whites, or if they had so much as mentioned homosexuals in any way, the people in all thirteen colonies would have soon turned Tory and this nation would not exist. It was not possible for those great ancestors of ours to truly ensure in the Constitution that all PEOPLE be created equal in our laws. So what did they do? As men of science, men of reason, they looked ahead and they hoped that times would change, that people would grow as human beings, and that their descendants could realize the rest of their vision. They left the Constitution open so that when such a day came, we, the people, could put amendments in that would do what they could not and create the equality for all that they could only dream of. Yes, I know that some of these men owned slaves themselves. I am sure that they also would have been homophobic and misogynistic as well by today's standards. But that's the point. They did not live by today's standards. This is why, before fools stand up in front of the people they are supposed to represent and declare that all of us have it wrong concerning those men, they need to try, for a moment, to imagine the way those men would believe if they were alive today. Believe me, it isn't that hard. You look at what they did write into the original constitution, you look at what they did believe and the philosophies that guided them, radical concepts that would have made them the Abbie Hoffmans of their day, you apply some damned knowledge of historical context, and tell me again that what is going on in America today would be supported by Jefferson, who has become Jesus to men like Glen Beck even though they are EVERYTHING he did not want for this nation.
I absolutely love my country. If I have moments where I am less than proud to be American it is not because of America herself. It is because of the people around me. I don't really have moments like that anymore, though, because as I've grown up I decided that I will not be ashamed of my "mother" simply because I have some absolute fools for "siblings" all around this nation. I do not know, nor do I care to know, anything about my biological father's shallow gene pool but I know a great deal about the side of my family I claim and most of my ancestors that I was able to trace came to this nation within the first two years after the establishment of Jamestown. I have other ancestors who were here long, long before that. So if that is what defines an American than I am certainly able to claim the title but unlike others in this country, I do not believe that how long your family has been here and how white they were has a damned thing to do with being an American. America was once more than a nation. America was a concept, a vital spirit. It was freedom, acceptance, a place where one's rights were sacred and they were not to be trampled on simply because a politician could use that trampling to get elected. And to me, if you are one of those people who feel like you are an authority on what it means to be a patriot, an American, you had damned well look down first and see if there are any basic freedoms under your feet from your climb to the podium before you tell an immigrant he or she isn't American enough to be here or that I am not a patriot because I won't sit back with my feminine mouth shut like a good girl while you tell a majority of the country that, for one reason or another, we are not good enough to have the same rights that you enjoy. I am a patriot because I will not shut up until every woman is treated like more than an incubator, everyone, regardless of orientation, can marry the person he or she loves, every worker who does the same job gets the same benefits and paycheck, and every person who wants to be here who does not have a legitimate reason to be deported can be here. Guess what? Those ancestors of mine who settled in Jamestown? They were immigrants. My ancestors who were here long long before the settlement existed would tell you so if they could. Furthermore, unless you are one hundred percent Native American (American Indian, native Hawaiian, native Alaskan), your ancestors were immigrants as well. Stop acting like you are high and mighty because your ancestors stepped off the boat a hundred years ago while the guy you want to deport for no reason at all came here last year. You're not.
So for your birthday, America, mother country of mine, I give you this promise. I promise that I will always stand up for the basic ideals you were built upon and that I will never become a hypocrite if the world changes and we learn more that tells us those ideals must go in a direction that is different from the one the facts are pointing us toward right now. I promise that I will not be one of the selfish many who stand up only when my own rights are being imposed upon but that I will stand up for ALL who find themselves in this position. I do not want a gun...ever...but should the right to bear arms be truly threatened I will stand up and fight against it. I know why that was put into the constitution and I know this reason will never be a thing of the past. I have no need for abortions but I will stand up for my sisters in this country in this and every other right that is being stripped from us. I'm straight but if the nation won't make all marriage illegal, I will continue to stand up for my homosexual brothers and sisters so that they, too, may know how long the word "forever" can last (hehe), I will stand up for the right to impeach officials who no longer serve us in the nation and here in Ohio where we desperately need such a provision, I will use my freedom of speech and peaceful assembly as often as I need to, I will respect the freedom of separation of church and state even if I find myself in an alternate universe where Paganism is the dominate faith here and Pagans become those who want to infringe on that separation, I will respect the differences I have with those around me because it is through our differences that we have made this nation interesting in its diversity, I will not support leaders who claim to know you better than I do even as they are shitting on all the things that make you great regardless of what side of the aisle they come from, I will sign petitions until my hand falls off if I must and protest in person when I can, and I will fight to make you strong again. I will fight to make you a symbol of hope again. I will fight to make my forefathers proud of me (all but Franklin...the man had some great ideas and he was brilliant but until I am sure those remains found around his house were not a result of any secret serial killer tendencies on his part, I just can't see him in a saintly light). I will not give up on you, on the legacy of those who fought like hell to bring you into this world, even if I am the only one standing and shouting. Because I love you. And because there is too much great potential left for me to sit quietly while it is all ripped to hell and back.
Happy birthday, America!
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