As I reflect on this year's 4th of July, a time in which our country still spends more of its resources on war and prisons than on education and health care, I feel it is fitting to honor those who have truly stood for freedom and peace.
I want to begin by honoring the Quakers who, in 1776, came to unity that it was un-Christian to own slaves and that any Quaker who owned slaves would be disowned by the Religious Society of Friends. A year earlier, Quakers in Philadelphia formed the first abolitionist society. These are events that deserve to be more widely known and celebrated.
I also want to honor my dear friend Stephen Longfellow Fiske, a gifted singer/songwriter who wrote this beautiful "Earth Anthem" to the tune of "The Star-Spangled Banner," transforming a song about "bombs bursting in air" to a song about the "clear skies of freedom":
O say can we see
by the one light in all
our Earth to embrace
at the call of all nations
where our children can play
in a world without war
where we stand hand in hand
in the grace of creation
where the rivers run clean
through the forests of green
where the cities stand tall
in the clear skies of freedom
O say do our hearts sing
for harmony and love forever
on the planet of our birth
blessed with peace on Earth. (See http://www.fiskemusic.com/earthanthem/)
Thirdly, I want to honor Stephen Rohde, president of ICUJP and one of the founders of Progressive Jewish Alliance. During the dark days of the Bush ear, this fearless Constitutional lawyer and activist wrote this powerful response to the escalating "war on terror" which was read at the ICUJP Rally in Support of the National Moratorium to Stop the War on Iraq (March 5, 2003). Sadly, what he says about Bush's foreign policy and human rights record applies also to the Obama administration:
A New Declaration of Independence
from King George W. Bush|
227 years ago, faced with a tyrant named King George, the American people declared their independence.
Today faced with another tyrant named George, who acts like a King, the people must once again declare our independence.
We reaffirm that all men and women are created equal. That we are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, including Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men and Women deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.
When a long train of abuses and usurpations evinces a design to reduce the People under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty to throw off such Government and to provide new Guards for their future security.
The history of the present King George is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny
This King George has detained citizens and non-citizens alike, incommunicado, without charging them with any crimes and without affording them the right to legal counsel.
This King George has eavesdropped on suspects consulting with their attorneys.
This King George has entered homes and offices for unannounced "sneak and peak" searches.
This King George has authorized his FBI to seize personal records from libraries and bookstores.
This King George has reinstated Cointelpro to resume the infiltration and surveillance of domestic religious and political groups.
This King George has banned the press and public from all deportation hearings.
This King George has recruited Americans to spy on citizens and non-citizens alike.
This King George lured students and visitors from predominately Muslim nations to submit to special INS registrations and then rounded them up and held them in detention, without access to their lawyers and families.
This King George has empowered Admiral John Poindexter to invade the privacy of all Americans by collecting their telephone records, credit card records, medical records and e-mail messages.
This King George has ordered his Justice Department to design new laws stripping Americans of their U.S. citizenship.
This King George has threatened those who object to his abuses that they are only aiding the terrorist and giving ammunition to America's enemies.
At every stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress yet we have been answered only by repeated injury.
A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free People.
In all this, he has set the Bill of Rights aflame, leaving our sacred charter in ashes.
With a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence and Human Rights, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Finally, I'd like to end on a positive note by honoring that dynamic duo of philosophic liberalism, Ariel and Will Durant. In 1945, they wrote something called the "Declaration of Interdependence" which captures the highest ideals of this time and is still relevant to our own--displaying a spirit of cooperation, tolerance and good will that is the essence of today's interfaith movement. The story of this amazing document is told at the Durants' website:
On April 8, 1944, Pulitzer Prize-winning philosopher Will Durant was approached by two leaders in the Jewish and Christian communities, Mr. Meyer David and Dr. Christian Richard, about collaborating on a project of social significance. Recalled Durant:
Dr. Richard and Mr. David came to me with suggestions to organize a movement, to raise moral standards. I talked them out of it, and suggested, instead, they work against racial intolerance. I outlined the argument, and proposed a Declaration of Interdependence. I thought the phrase was original with me, but found it had been used before -- however, only in regard to international political independence. I asked them to draw up such a Declaration, and promised to sign it if I liked it.
Durant, David, and Richard outlined their plans for the movement and drafted a declaration that represented their core beliefs. This document Durant called "A Declaration of Interdependence". In Ariel and Will Durant's dual autobiography, Will Durant expressed his reasoning for his recommendation:
Just as independence has been the motto of states and individuals since 1750, so the motto of the coming generations should be interdependence. And just as no state can now survive by its own unaided power, so no democracy can long endure without recognizing and encouraging the interdependence of the racial and religious groups composing it.
Here's what their Declaration of Interdependence says:
Human progress having reached a high level through respect for the liberty and dignity of men, it has become desirable to re-affirm these evident truths:
That differences of race, color, and creed are natural, and that diverse groups, institutions, and ideas are stimulating factors in the development of man;
That to promote harmony in diversity is a responsible task of religion and statesmanship;
That since no individual can express the whole truth, it is essential to treat with understanding and good will those whose views differ from our own;
That by the testimony of history intolerance is the door to Violence, brutality and dictatorship; and
That the realization of human interdependence and solidarity is the best guard of civilization.
Therefore, we solemnly resolve, and invite everyone to join in united action.
To uphold and promote human fellowship through mutual consideration and respect;
To champion human dignity and decency, and to safeguard these without distinction of race, or color, or creed;
To strive in concert with others to discourage all animosities arising from these differences, and to unite all groups in the fair play of civilized life.
ROOTED in freedom, bonded in the fellowship of danger, sharing everywhere a common human blood, we declare again that all men are brothers, and that mutual tolerance is the price of liberty.
Note: The Declaration of Interdependence was introduced into the Congressional Record on October 1, 1945 by Hon. Ellis E. Patterson. (If you'd like to sign on to this document, see http://www.willdurant.com/interdependence.htm)