Some of the things I’ve written lately have offended a few people. They didn’t like things I said about Republicans in general and Donald Trump in particular. This issue will be different. It will probably piss off everyone.
The Fourth of July is coming up and Americans will be celebrating their Independence from Great Britain. I’m sure that I will hear plenty of patriotic songs that week. I might even play a few myself on my “Jedi” Saxophone. Many of the songs will be about the pride people have in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave.
I consider myself lucky to have been born in the United States, but, even though I served 4 years in the military, I am not proud of this country. The United States is a land of violent hypocrites, and it goes all the way back to the Founding Fathers (and actually even further back).
Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, which contained the words, “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.”
Thomas Jefferson owned over 600 human beings throughout the course of his life.
George Washington led the American army that won the War of Independence, and he became our first President. He was uneasy with the institution of slavery and spoke frequently of his desire to end the practice. However, at the time of George Washington’s death, he owned 317 slaves.
Seventeen of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention owned a total of about 1,400 slaves. Of the first 12 U.S. presidents, eight were slave owners.
Haiti (then Saint-Domingue) formally declared independence from France in 1804 and became the first sovereign nation in the Western Hemisphere to unconditionally abolish slavery. Slavery was not abolished in the United States until more than 60 years later, January 31, 1865. Even then, the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which aimed to abolish slavery, had a loophole that allowed slavery to remain legal.
Section I of the amendment reads:
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
This “Exception Clause”, also known as the Punishment Clause, made it possible for slavery to be used as a method of punishment, allowing the government to legally subject people incarcerated all across the United States, from sea to shining sea, to be subject to forced labor.
The Prison Policy Initiative, a non-profit organization, estimated in 2016 that in the United States, about 2,298,300 people were incarcerated out of a population of 324.2 million. This means that 0.7% of the population was imprisoned. This is not quite the land of the free.
In 2018, black Americans represented 33% of the sentenced prison population, nearly triple their 12% share of the U.S. adult population. More than 150 years after slavery was supposed to be abolished, orange is the new slavery.
Forced labor in prisons is often built into “rehabilitation” or “educational” programs. Many who are incarcerated report being threatened with solitary confinement or longer sentences if they refuse to work. On top of this, incarcerated people are often paid little or nothing for their work, leaving them with almost no savings to help them re-enter society upon release, almost guaranteeing their return to prison.
Remember the almost two and a half million incarcerated Americans when you sing “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.” Lee Greenwood might not be singing that song if he wasn’t a white guy.
Besides America’s history of slavery, we also have a long history of being war mongers. We love our wars and revere our warriors. Twelve Presidents were Generals.
Listing our numerous wars, I won’t even count the Revolutionary War. So, we’ll start with the War of 1812 (1812-1815). I won’t count the many wars with Native Americans before the Revolution, but we do have to count the numerous Indian Wars between 1817 and 1898. Then there’s the Mexican War (1846-1848). Then, running out of other people to fight, we fought each other in the worst war in our history, the Civil War (1861-1865). We went back to fighting the rest of the world with the Spanish-American War (1898-1902). Then we graduated to World War I (1917-1918) and World War II (1941-1945).
World War II was the last time Congress officially declared war. We did have the Korean War (1950-1953), but since 1945, the conflicts we’ve called “wars” have actually been congressional “authorizations of military force.” John and Yoko Lennon said “War is over, if you want it.” The United States says, War is over if we just rename it.
In 2013, the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) had special operations forces (SOFs) in 134 countries, where they were either involved in combat, special missions, or advising and training foreign forces. Since Geography is no longer taught in American schools, I bet that most Americans can’t even name 134 countries.
Anyhow, we had Vietnam (1964-1975), that Invasion of Grenada (1983), Desert Shield, Desert Storm (1990-1991), and now the granddaddies of them all the Global War on Terror, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2001-probably forever).
We’ve even had a war against stupidity. In 1929, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Buck v Bell came to an 8-1 decision that okayed the forced sterilization of stupid people, and other undesirables. 70,000 Americans were sterilized in the name of Eugenics, but, obviously, that didn’t end stupidity in this country. Our little experiment in Eugenics may even have inspired Hitler. Maybe that’s why his little plan to wipe out the Jews, didn’t instantly bring out our usual desire to get into another war. We didn’t spring into action until an enemy with yellow skin showed up. Then we showed them the rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air, two great big nuclear ones.
You’d think that all those wars would be enough bloodshed to satisfy even the most blood-thirsty people around, but no, when we Americans can’t find somebody else to kill, we just kill each other.
Mass shootings are incidents in which a shooter kills at least four victims. Using this definition, one study found that nearly one-third of the world’s public mass shootings between 1966 and 2012 (90 of 292 incidents) occurred in the United States. Using a similar definition, The Washington Post reported 163 mass shootings in the United States between 1967 and June 2019. If you ask someone if they heard about the latest mass shooting, they’ll probably ask you which one you’re talking about. Lately, it seems that there have been a few every week, and you can’t tell your mass shootings without a scorecard.
As for your run-of-the-mill shootings, a total of 39,740 people were killed by firearms in 2018. Some were suicides. So, we don’t even stop with killing others.
All in all, it’s not really a history to instill pride. If you want me to be proud of America, make me. End discrimination. Stop killing people. Pass tough gun control laws. Stop being the world’s #1 arms merchants, and work for peace.
Then maybe I’ll be able to sing along with you.
Peace & Love, and all of the above,