THE RESPONSIBILITY OF A DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE

“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. “
~ The Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776.

I’m hard on America.

I criticize and complain and point out faults of the government. I complain about American foreign policy and its sometimes horrendous effects on the Kurdish people in the past and the present, and what those effects may be in the future.

When I criticize and complain about the US government, at a certain level I am also criticizing and complaining about the American people because, as Abraham Lincoln pointed out in his Gettysburg Address, this government is “of the people, by the people, for the people.” If Lincoln’s words still hold true, the American people are burdened with a great responsibility.

This responsibility is no longer confined to the shores of the United States proper. As I understand American history, the advice of President Washington to the American people, urging them to avoid foreign entanglements, was nullified by the entry of the United States into the Second World War. At the end of that war, isolationism as an American policy was effectively ended and, in spite of certain isolationist attitudes that are still expressed today, it is impossible for Americans to go back to an idyllic time when they had less influence in the world, or believed that the vast oceans which separate them from the rest of the world would serve as impenetrable, insulating barriers. Those impenetrable barriers are now crossed in a matter of hours.

The actions of the American people, as expressed by their government, affect the rest of the world, for great good or for inconcievable suffering, even to the remote mountains of Kurdistan. As such, Americans cannot ignore their own foreign policies or remain ignorant of them. They cannot abdicate their responsibilities as citizens of a democracy, allowing government to work solely for strategic, or national, or special interests. Citizens of a democracy have a moral obligation to do what is right and just.

If I thought that the American people were callous and uncaring, then the time for discussion or criticism or dialog would be over. But I do not think that, at least not of all Americans and maybe not even of most Americans.

We see time and time again, that the American people can be moved to active compassion. When there is a disaster, the American people are the first and most generous with sending aid, whether it takes the form of money, food, medical supplies, rescuers, medical personnel, and anything or anyone else that is needed.

We saw it in Operation Iraqi Freedom, an operation which has given a fraction of the Kurdish people a chance at freedom.

We saw it in the recent outpouring of support by an American community in Virginia for their Kurdish neighbors. If not for the response of those Americans, I have no doubt that the unjust sentences handed out to the Harrisonburg Kurds would have been far harsher. I still remain adamantly opposed to the Patriot Act. I remain opposed to even relatively minor punishments of the innocent. But a courtroom jammed with American citizens in support of the innocent is justice defiant in the face of the strict, inexorable justice that characterizes the letter of the law.

If, through their foreign policy, the American people stood defiant against other, massive injustices–regardless of special interests–the entire world would be a much better place.

Americans are not a perfect people and America is not a perfect democracy. However, America is far closer to realizing the universal ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as those ideals are expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, than certain other countries, countries that wear a mask of democracy in order to conceal a heart of fascism.

If the American people wish to be a force for good in the world, they must renew their faith in, and commitment to, those foundational, political ideals, because they are the source of America’s strength.

If not, America will one day wear a mask of democracy in order to hide a heart of fascism.

Before I forget . . . Happy Birthday, America.

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