Friday, July 4, 2008

Iraq Veterans Against the War - Independence Day 2008

On July 4th, 2008, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War came together at Independence Hall in Philadelphia to mark the 232nd birthday of the United States of America, and remind fellow patriots of the values upon which our country was founded. It should be very clear to all partriotic Americans, that when in the course of human events, an oppression so revolts those subject to it, it becomes necessary to dissolve the political bands that are the means of that tyranny. We must, as a nation, once again, embrace defiance, rebellion, and resistance!

Reading by IVAW board member, Jason Lemieux

Organization and planning by Sholom Keller

Footage by Bill Perry and Adam Kokesh

Video editing by Adam Kokesh

Music by Michael Franti and Spearhead - Yell Fire

A Much Needed Independence Day

The inverted American flag shown here adorns a wall in
my bedroom. Seeing the symbol of America "in a state
of distress" first thing in the morning always motivates
me to get out of bed and fight for this country.

As a naturally rebelious spirit, Independence Day has a special place in my heart. In elementary school, I was the kid in the back of the classroom who would always get into arguments with the teacher. They all said that I should be a lawyer when I grow up, presuming I could muster the patience required for law school. In middle school, I went punk, always had a crazy haircut, and wore a lot of shirts with skulls and other dark themes. One of them had a skeleton with a k-bar and a Marine Corps 8-point cover on his grape. It read: U.S.M.C. - UNCLE SAM'S MISGUIDED CHILDREN.

When I joined the Marines and started learning about our history, (they tought us about Smedley Butler, but not that he wrote a book called War Is A Racket) the one quote that stuck with me was from the legendary Marine, Chesty Puller. In boot camp, some platoons get to say, “Goodnight Chesty, wherever you are!” every night in unison while laying in the position of attention in their racks. The quote is, “You're not a real Marine until you get busted down once or twice.” I didn't think I would be able to live up to that standard, but fortunately, I was wrong.

Senior Marines would regale me with tales of their craziness, and brag about doing things like driving drunk, getting pulled over, and having the cop let them get away with it. Then explain it like this, “But America needs crazy mother-f'ers like us around. That's what it takes. Americans sleep soundly at night because they know guys like us can be on any beach in less than 24 hours.” Taking a more strategic look at the Corps's strategic value and chances of survival, former Marine Corps Commandant Lieutenant General Krulak noted, “The United States does not need a Marine Corps, the United States wants a Marine Corps.” It should come as no surprise, that Marines are over-represented in the ranks of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

When I joined the Marines, or rather the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) and took my oath of enlistment, I took it very seriously. “Support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” I stopped to think about why the document was more important than the intstitution, and it naturally made sense to me. These are the rules by which we are able to ensure the rights of the people, this is what I want to have my life on the line for.

Of course, the Constitution is simply our best attempt (and I would argue among the best, if not the best created by any society in human history) to enshrine a set of greater values in a practical form of governence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This philosophy and these ideals were not anything particularly revolutionary in and of themselves, but when faced with the rejection of these ideals in the tyranny of King George III, the founding fathers were in a unique position to take a stand for those ideals. It required a certain courage of them, but they sure as hell delivered! “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

The utopian ideal that comes from those principles is one that is void of the violation of those rights by any human against any other, or what some would call a state of anarchy. But out of the realities of the circumstance and the culture at the time, a practical form of governance was necessary, and naturally came the Constitution. Although beautiful and powerful, this document that created and defined what Benjamin Franklin referred to as, “A republic, if you can keep it,” was far from perfect. Not only did our founders intend for us to keep it, but strive continuously to improve it, and it prescribed the exact means of amendment. Along with the cultural evolution that makes change possible, we have been making great progress with our Constitutional Republic. We have seen the abolition of slavery, a civil rights movement, and a women's movement, among many other great strides.

As a species, we have gone from the law of the jungle, to feudalism, to kingdoms, to empire, to capitalism with slavery, to capitalism with corporatism, but all in all, things are getting better. Humanity marches on. You can fight it, or fight for it. It wasn't too long ago that the best we could expect out of life was fondly referred to as, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” My oh my, how we have progressed as a species since then.

But even in America, it has been a process of two steps forward, one step back. And as a nation, we are progressing down many paths simultaneously. The founding of the federal reserve as not only unconstitutional, but creating unnatural, imoral concentrations of wealth, could be seen as a step backward begun in 1913 that is still with us today. Within that time frame, there have been many steps forward, and many smaller steps backward. Clearly, in this framework, the Bush Administration has had more than it's fair share of steps backwards.

That is why this Independence Day is so desperately needed right now. We have forgotten the ideals put forth in Declaration. As the founders knew, a servile, unquestioning, obedient people, will always produce tyrants. The mortal flaw of tyranny is that it is dependent upon the obedience of its subjects. On this Independence Day we must renew our commitment to the ideals of the Declaration. It should be very clear to all partriotic Americans, that when in the course of human events, an oppression so revolts those subject to it, it becomes necessary to dissolve the political bands that are the means of that tyranny. We must, as a nation, once again, embrace defiance, rebellion, and resistance!

Happy Independence Day . . . if you can live up to it.