“I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m Free!”
Food and drink flow generously; fireworks set the skies alight; rousing songs are played at teeth rattling volume; speeches are given by officials; jets fly over ball games streaming red, white and blue colored smoke; movies featuring blood-soaked heroes staring down death in climatic struggles for freedom are on cable and Netflix; it is the time when U.S. citizens celebrate their ancestors’ political secession from Britain: “Independence Day,” July 4th.
At least that is the ostensible reason for all the ruckus.
In reality, it has become a time where the national government, all 50 state governments and no small number of American people celebrate the awesome, destructive power of their regime’s military machinery, taking a moment (or several hours) to reflect in awe at the supposed magnanimity of the global American Empire.
President Obama’s July 4th 2012 address from the Whitehouse lawn was a perfect example of the cookie-cutter speech that has been given with regularity by practically every public official in the United States over the years, and will undoubtedly be heard in slightly modified form, yet again:
How’s it going, everybody? (Applause.) Are you hot? It’s supposed to be hot. It’s the fourth of July. Happy Fourth of July, everybody! (Applause.) On behalf of the entire Obama family, welcome to the White House.
Now, the last thing anybody wants to do is to ruin a nice backyard barbecue with a long speech, so I’m going to be quick.
It is always such an honor for us to spend this holiday with members of our military and your extraordinary families. All of you represent what is best in America. You serve under our proud flag. You and your families sacrifice more than most of us can ever know — all in defense of those God-given rights that were first put to paper 236 years ago: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
So as your Commander-in-Chief — but also as an American[I wasn’t aware that being “Commander-in-Chief” i.e. the president of the U.S., and an “American,” were two distinct identities]— I want to invite all of you over to say one thing: thank you.
Today, all across America, at schools, and beaches, and in town squares, Americans are celebrating the freedoms that all of you and your families defend. Like many of them, we’re grilling in the backyard. We’ve got some pretty good tunes for you. We’ve got the outstanding Marine Band. Give them a big round of applause. (Applause.) And we’ve got Brad Paisley and his band in the house for a little country. (Applause.)
We’ve also got all of you. We’ve got Army in the house. (Applause.) We’ve got Navy. (Applause.) We’ve got Air Force. (Applause.) You know we’ve got some Marines here. (Applause.) And we’ve got Coast Guard. (Applause.) Today, we salute all of you.
We salute our soldiers, like Sergeant Alan Ruehs, who, in the midst of an enemy ambush in Afghanistan, risked his own life to save the lives of four others.
We salute our sailors, like Petty Officer Taylor Morris, who suffered terrible wounds while serving in Afghanistan on an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team, but who inspires us all through his incredible recovery.
We salute an Airman — Colonel Charles Barnett, who led close to 200 combat missions in Afghanistan and still serves his country by volunteering to care for our fallen heroesat Arlington National Cemetery.
We salute a Marine — Corporal Alex Nguyen, who sustained serious injuries when his vehicle struck an IED in Afghanistan, but who carries on stronger than ever.
We salute a “Coastie” from my hometown of Chicago — Lieutenant Commander Michelle Watson, who was one of the first African American women to graduate from the Coast Guard Academy and went on to perform exceptional service in Operation Enduring Freedom.
All the men and women who stand with us here this afternoon are an example of this generation of heroes — this 9/11 Generation that has earned its place in history alongside the greatest generations. Because of your service and sacrifice, all of our troops are now out of Iraq. [Woops] (Applause.) Because of your service and sacrifice, we took the fight to al Qaeda [mission creep always produces terrible side effects for empire] and we brought Osama bin Laden to justice. (Applause.) Because of your service and sacrifice, we’re transitioning out of Afghanistan [Like in Iraq? Or Syria?]. We will remain ready for any threat. [sic] That is all because of you. [Can’t argue with that one: if no one “served,” how would rulers like Obama carry out their armed machinations? Drones don’t fly themselves, and rifles don’t magically come alive and go on patrol without a wielder.] (Applause.)
And as long as I have the honor of being your Commander-in-Chief, I want you all — our men and women in uniform, our veterans and their families — to know this: America will always remember. We will always be there for you, just as you’ve been there for us. That’s my promise. That is America’s promise. And that is one that we pledge to fulfill on this Independence Day.
So, Happy Fourth of July, everybody. Enjoy the fireworks. Get some hotdogs. God bless you. God bless your families. And God bless these United States of America.
And with that, let me turn it back over to the United States Marine Band. (Applause.)
At least he mentioned “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” at the beginning. That has something to do with Independence Day. But what of it? Was there any talk about why the Americans separated from Britain? No. Was there any mention of what the movement for Independence was supposed to accomplish? No. Was anyone outside of a military capacity who had sacrificed or worked to advance any of these ‘blessings of liberty’ mentioned? No.
“Putting it another way: for someone to say that armed conflict is necessary to the preservation of our freedom, then that conflict has to be centered on our freedom. It has to be a fight for freedom itself.”
Were any advances in law, or science or technology cited to demonstrate the dedication Americans have to the Founding ideals? No. Instead we get a list of how many combat missions one person lead, and how another person survived an IED attack, how someone was wounded during combat and even how one person managed to graduate from the Coast Guard academy. What does any of this have to do with “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” ?
“The price of freedom is high.”
Some may say that all of this has everything to do with life and liberty, because “freedom isn’t free.” While one may agree with the sentiment, if the situation doesn’t jive with the rhetoric, then the sentiment falls flat.
Putting it another way: for someone to say that armed conflict is necessary to the preservation of our freedom, then that conflict has to be centered on our freedom. It has to be a fight for freedom itself. American freedom must lay in peril in the face of a specific enemy, who is trying to impose themselves upon us and deprive us the exercise of our freedom.
In his 2013 July 4th speech, Obama gave almost the exact same spiel he did in 2012, with a few additions. He mentioned the National Guard, for one. More important, he actually decided to talk about the purpose of Independence:
On July 4, 1776, a small band of patriots declared that we were a people created equal, free to think and worship and live as we please; that our destiny would not be determined for us, it would be determined by us. And it was bold and it was brave. And it was unprecedented, it was unthinkable. At that time in human history, it was kings and princes and emperors who made decisions.
But those patriots knew there was a better way of doing things, that freedom was possible, and that to achieve their freedom they’d be willing to lay down their lives, their fortunes and their honor. And so they fought a revolution.
This speaks to the idea that freedom must be defended with arms when faced with a deadly threat to its existence. This is what the Founders undertook with the Revolution. I feel that I cannot overstate myself on this point: I am not saying that armed struggle is never required in the name of freedom and liberty, but we cannot then take every example of armed struggle and say it is about “defending freedom.” We must be honest about the nature of the struggle for the rhetoric to be true, as opposed to just so much bullshit to rally people to a fight they don’t need to be fighting.
[UPDATE] It’s almost as if Obama himself thinks it’s bullshit, or that the situation at hand is some kind of joke. As he said in the latest July 4th message (go to the 22 second mark ):
I want to begin today by saying a special word to the U.S. men’s soccer team, who represented America so well in the past few weeks. We are so proud of you. You got a lot of new believers; and I know there’s actually a petition on the White House website to make Tim Howard the next Secretary of Defense. Now, Chuck Hagel’s got that spot right now, but if there is a vacancy, I promise to think about it.
Granted, Obama was being facetious. But, this doesn’t change the fact that saying you are going to think about replacing the Sec. of Defense with a pro soccer player is a completely retarded thing to say. Even in jest, it doesn’t mesh with his bombastic rhetoric about being at war and Americans laying their lives down “for freedom:” if the situation is so serious, if the enemy is really at the gates, then what’s with the joke?
It’s as if Obama is actually highlighting the manufactured and overblown nature of the “War on Terror.”
It’s like he’s saying: “We salute all of those fighting for our ‘freedom,’ wink wink. LOLz. But seriously, yeah…keep up the good work killing in the name of the corrupt U.S. government. Thanks for that.”
So what has been the nature of the conflicts that president Obama and others highlight as being where Americans’ life and liberty is supposedly on the line?
Did invasion and occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan ensure “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” ? Do Americans enjoy greater individual liberty now than they did before the invasions? Are we, as Americans, seeing happier, more fulfilling lives following these two operations? These fundamental questions should not be difficult to answer if we just examine our everyday lives.
For example, do you feel more secure in your communications and internet searches in the post-NSA, ‘meta data collection’ world, than you did pre-2001? Do you find it easier and more civilized to board an airline flight in 2014 than you did in 2000? Do you remember American police officers being more militarized decades ago, or less? Has the list of things that a person can be imprisoned for (even if they result in no victims or damages) grown over the years, or shrunk?
The bottom line is that it is impossible to demonstrate how the military adventurism of the American Empire over the decades was targeted at specific entities that threatened to remove American liberties. Even if one argues that the adventurism was addressing legitimate threats, one must concede that theses conflicts have not enlarged or secured American freedoms, insofar as we can demonstrate that American citizens have less freedom today than they did thirteen years ago; and in 2001, we had less freedom than we had ten years prior, and so on.
So even if we accepted the idea that some operation, like the occupation of Iraq, was necessary to protect America’s founding ideals, the fact that we can objectively demonstrate less freedom for the citizen in 2014 relative to 2003 proves that even if justified, the operation failed in its strategic aim of “defending our freedom.”
So why every 4th of July do some people thump their chests and talk proudly of “defending freedom” and “saluting” those who supposedly are engaged in that defense?
Where is the proof that we are, in fact, “fighting for freedom” or “defending our liberty”? Just saying these sentiments over and over again doesn’t make it true. The truth itself is simple enough.
When an official, like the president, gets in front of people and thanks the military machinery for doing its job, and throws laurels at grand operations, what he/she is saying in essence is brutally plain:
“Thank you to all the people who killed (or facilitated the killing process) in the name of this government. Your killing of targets designated by this government has made everyone subject to this government more free.”
That’s it. It is simply not possible to interpret the language otherwise.
Even if a conflict is justified and necessary, the language is what it is. There is no sense in over complicating what war is: a threat is identified; people give orders to remove the threat by designating targets; people who are trained in various specialties work together to kill, capture, destroy or otherwise deter the targets. It’s a simple process at the core. If people can grasp it easily (as they should) then why is it so hard for them to get the equally simple idea that taking out a target that is not an actual threat to our freedom is not, in fact, removing a threat. It’s just taking out a target.
Taking out arbitrarily chosen targets, or manufactured “threats,” for perverse and depraved motives is not “defending freedom”: it’s contract killing.
Again, when do we actually stop to evaluate if the targets are impeding our exercise of freedom? When do we ever do an assessment of our global military operations and size up what freedoms we gained, or prevented the loss thereof, as a result of those operations? Our government never does this. Our officials just keep giving war rally speeches, and too many citizens either applaud the empty rhetoric, or are too afraid of chastisement from peers and friends that will accuse them of not supporting “The Troops,” or “those that defend our freedom.”
Even though July 4th has the dubious honor of being the United States’ most militarized holiday, practically every American holiday is now dominated with speeches from society’s supposed leaders with the same militarist message:
- on Thanksgiving we must be reminded that the thing we should be most thankful for are, of course, “the Troops.”
- on Pearl Harbor Day politicians somehow start speeches about sailors going down with their ships in Hawaii, and end talking about Pakistan.
- at Christmas we are reminded that the “greatest gift of all” is the gift of “liberty” that “the Troops” bestow to us. If you want to keep the “Christ” in Christmas, don’t forget, as your pastor may preach, that we are engaged in “holy war” with the “Jihadists” and that The Troops are serving almighty god in the “most pure way.”
- the New Year celebration comes with official speeches about the sacrifices of The Troops over the previous year to keep us “free”: the State of the Union address will follow shortly afterwards exhorting everyone to greater effort, reminding them of the deadly struggle for ‘liberty’ our society is engaged in against “Terror.”
- Presidents’ Day is a great time to remind us all of how George Washington was our first president…no that’s not right…I meant Commander in Chief. And we will hear plenty of media pundits and politicians explaining how Washington was a great general, and how Abe Lincoln had no choice but to raze half the nation to the ground. Did Washington say something about “entangling alliances?” If it is ever acknowledged that he did, we will be told that this was just because he knew the U.S. wasn’t ‘strong enough yet’ to take on the whole rest of the earth in armed struggle.
- Easter is another great time for pastors to remind their flocks about the ‘clash of civilizations’ between “Christian America” and the Jihadists. After all, the Muslims were the ones who condemned Jesus to death to begin with……right? Politicians will yet again make speeches lamenting that many Troops cannot be present to celebrate this day of rejuvenation and rebirth, for The Troops ensure life itself is possible, we will be told.
- on Memorial Day we will be inundated with stories of all The Troops who cannot be home, and maybe a few clips on the evening news of “surprise returns” by soldiers popping out of cakes or skydiving onto their 4 year old’s soccer game “unexpectedly.” Even though the day was instituted to remember those who were tragically lost, it has morphed into a celebration of those who are ‘gloriously absent’ on the ‘great undertakings’ of their government.
- July 4th is the biggest war rally/military masturbatory festival, perhaps only running a close second to:
- Veteran’s Day. Do I even need to elaborate on this one? What once was a day to commemorate the end of the “war to end all wars” (Armistice Day) is now a celebration of war itself, and all who are affiliated with it, veteran or not.
Of course there are other holidays less prominent, or ones that have shorter tenure in American history, but assume a militaristic overtone nonetheless. September 11th, also known as Patriot Day, is a time for politicians to remind everyone why a mass murder that happened in New York City 12+ years ago somehow means we need to send troops to Nigeria, or bomb Yemen or something along those lines. It is also a time to remind everyone how afraid we must be of global terrorism, even though each year we “have never been stronger.” There’s Flag Day, which can easily segway into war worship by way of whipping nationalism to a fever pitch. Even Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are not exempt, as we are bombarded with advertisements, public service announcements and media pieces reminding us of how some fathers and mothers cannot be home because they are off “defending our freedom.”
“You would think that if our Liberty was truly being defended through arms, then this fact would be apparent to everyone, and that we would see some tangible evidence of the growth of Liberty in our lives.”
Enough is enough already.
You would think that if our Liberty was truly being defended through arms, then this fact would be apparent to everyone, and that we would see some tangible evidence of the growth of Liberty in our lives. Or at the least, we citizens would stop losing liberties and at least be able to keep the few remaining ones we had 15 years ago. But the exact opposite is the case.
If the military is not actually “defending freedom” for the American people, then what or who are they defending, in reality? And what does that reality have to do with Independence Day and the ideals of the Revolution of 1775?By Jack
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