The Fourth of July

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

Ee’d plebnista norkohn forkohn perfectunun…  –  Cloud William (Roy Jenson) in “The Omega Glory

Even when Star Trek was bad, it could have moments that were memorable and said something important.  In the deeply-flawed episode “The Omega Glory”, descendants of early Earth colonists (or else the inhabitants of an impossibly-parallel world) fought a bacteriological war between Americans and Chinese which ended in both nations being hurled back into barbarism; the Yangs (Yankees) still have an American flag and a copy of the Constitution, but have forgotten the real meaning of the artifacts.  They revere the flag as a totem and recite the “holy words” by rote; today’s epigram is the Yang leader’s rendition of the beginning of the Preamble to the Constitution (“We the People, in order to form a more perfect union…”) altered by centuries of repetition without meaning.  They live in a tribal culture ruled by chiefs and elders, practice trial by combat, and adhere to a code of religious law completely at odds with the sacred documents they can no longer read.  To them, “freedom” is nothing but a “worship word” forbidden to infidels, and the Constitution is taboo for the eyes of anyone but a chief.

The situation presents a useful (if exaggerated) metaphor of modern America; though we have not descended to the barbarism of the Yangs, our law and traditions have drifted ever further from their philosophical and constitutional moorings.  The Founding Fathers would not recognize the current legal code of this country, grounded as it is in religion and other dangerous superstitions and “-isms” inimical to the Enlightenment philosophy and thousand-year-old English common law tradition in which it was originally based.  Our chiefs and priests of the law claim to revere the Constitution yet violate it at every turn; their sycophantic followers proclaim that interpretation of the “holies” is only for the elite, and rabble like us need merely obey “just authority”.  And though “freedom” is still a “worship word” in this country, observing the ovine obsequiousness with which Americans submit to looting, brutality, sexual molestation and demands of literal obeisance to petty officials leads me to the unavoidable conclusion that they have as little understanding of its meaning as the fictional Cloud William did.  The title of today’s column is the name by which most Americans refer to this day:  not “Independence Day” to acknowledge the actual reason for the observance (a declaration by brave and principled men that they refused to submit to tyranny), but rather just a date on a calendar, an excuse to stay home from work and celebrate their dependence on the overlords who so graciously grant them the holiday.

The oath Cloud William called the Ay Pledgli ends with the words, “…with liberty and justice for all,” and the pairing is not an arbitrary one:  liberty and justice are inextricably bound together, and the only way to guarantee the one is to protect the other.  When government actors are not only given greater rights and greater legal standing than other citizens, but are in fact insulated from the consequences of their own evil actions against others, the liberty of ordinary citizens becomes subject to the whims of those officials and justice dies.  And when individuals, groups or institutions are allowed to commit injustices against others, how can the liberty of those so victimized survive?  In trying to explain to the Yangs what their “holy words” really meant, Captain Kirk said, “That which you call Ee’d Plebnista was not written for the chiefs or the kings or the warriors or the rich and powerful, but for all the people…not…only for the Yangs, but for the Kohms as well…they must apply to everyone or they mean nothing!”  Sometime in the past two centuries, Americans forgot that; individuals and groups used government as a means to deny liberty and justice to others, and thus created the machinery by which their own liberty was stolen.  In the real world, there aren’t any wise heroes from outer space to come down and rescue us from our own decadence by explaining the meaning of our sacred truths; we’re going to have to rediscover them for ourselves, without assistance from the stars.  Liberty is both a blessing and a burden; justice is both a boon and a solemn duty.  And if we continue to abdicate responsibility for both to the least evolved and most barbaric among us, we won’t need a world war to destroy everything our ancestors built.

(by Maggie McNeill; cross-posted from The Honest Courtesan)

Digg it |  reddit | |  Fark

15 Responses to “The Fourth of July”

  1. #1 |  David | 

    It’s been more than ten years since 9/11 but I’m still continually amazed at the wholesale, explicit rejection of “give me liberty or give me death.”

  2. #2 |  BoomerWarrior | 

    We have a lot to celebrate on July 4th or do we? To me, Independence Day is starting to feel more like Dependence Day. America is in steep decline and by the time we wake up, it will be too late, much like the climate change thing.

  3. #3 |  Burgers Allday | 

    If a supersmart alien did want to clue us in to the freedoms we have lost, without unduly alarming us, wouldn’t he just start a blog and tell us what we need to know.

    If the alien uses a blog, then it avoids the need for face-to-face (biological risks), and also cuts down on the risks that we would try to imprison or hurt the truth-speaking alien if we found out what he really was.

    Chances are that the alien would take summers off from blogging to report back to the mother ship and also so he wouldn’t become too lonely for the lack of lady aliens here on Earth.

    We have no way of knowing if this is already happening, but it probably isn’t. It just seems too crazy to believe.

    “It’s gotta be Burgers!” (TM)

  4. #4 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    Yes, Roddenberry was way ahead of the curve on this one.
    As Bush the Younger once declared, the Constitution in the 21st Century is “just agoddamn piece of paper.”
    Police, formerly peacemakers, have begun to wage tyranny on the very blue-collar class they are part of.
    Prisons have become for-profit real estate ventures, breaking all records for incarceration…
    Even SCOTUS, the last bead on the Rosary, has become a bunch of corporate-controlled fuckheads.
    But at least we get to choose from 100 brands of breakfast cereal. That, my friends, is Freedom.

  5. #5 |  Onlooker | 

    Fabulous blog post Maggie. You’ve captured my thoughts and feelings and expressed them much more eloquently than I could have. Thank you

  6. #6 |  Onlooker | 

    Yizmo – I am the furthest thing from a defender of W, but that quote is unfounded, I believe –

    Believe me, if there was ever a president I’d believe had uttered those words, it would be W. His actions sure reflected that sentiment; as have Obama’s. And of course plenty of congress members.

    But as always, we weaken our position when using unfounded material in debate.

  7. #7 |  Yizmo Gizmo |
    I don’t give a goddamn,” Bush retorted. “I’m the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way.”

    “Mr. President,” one aide in the meeting said. “There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.”

    “Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”

    The consensus at the time, in response to the outrage, and doubt, was that credible references claimed they were present when Bush allegedly uttered those words, and the precision of syntax, by witnesses, in addition to the guy’s personality, tends to lead me to believe he did.
    I suppose we can let the historians fight it out, regarding veracity.
    If he did not *say* it, he certainly left one huge, steamy heap of a dung
    atop that precious document…

  8. #8 |  Over the River | 

    This was excellent. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  9. #9 |  Other Sean | 

    I’d love to see a variation on that theme…the twist being that the Declaration starts out as an empty recitation and only becomes meaningful after centuries of difficult struggle. Here’s my version:

    The space visitors arrive in the 1700s to seed Earth’s culture with a series of revolutionary texts. For whatever plot-advancing reason, they can only decode two languages: English, and much less effectively, French. So most of humanity is at first totally untouched by their intervention.

    Things do not go well from there. The French texts fail straight away, and even the better English translations turn out to be far from complete. Key concepts are omitted, fundamental questions left unanswered. Humanity is forced to fill in the blanks as best it can.

    It does not do very well. The legacy culture people use to replace those missing concepts turns out to be a totally corrupt amalgam of violence, inequality, superstition, sexual repression, bigotry, and bad logic. These ingredients do not mix well with the new text, and soon terrible perversions arise. The texts fall into the hands of professional sophists, who win power by promising to interpret them for the good of all.

    For a long time, too many earthlings are too desperately poor even to spend time thinking about the texts. Worse, they are too powerless and too meek to challenge the sophists, who they’ve been taught from childhood to admire.

    When the space visitors return in 2012, they are disgusted to see the wreckage of their plans.

    They find that only a few small groups have come to understand the authentic meaning of the texts. But no one listens to them yet, and still they use up most of their energy debating with each other. They work for changes that will not happen while they live, and may not even happen in the centuries after they have died.

    The space travelers, calculating the extent of past, present, and future human misery resulting from their failure, argue about whether the planet should be destroyed or allowed more time to discover the true meaning of the texts.

    I’ll call it “Independence Day”. No, wait. Shit! That’s not gonna work.

  10. #10 |  el coronado | 

    If you want to bitch about Presidents thinking the Constitution was a troublesome piece of paper that just got in the way of their plans, why start with Bush? Lincoln used it for toilet paper. (He had to crap all over it to save it, you see.) Woodrow Wilson made an infamous remark about how he wished he didn’t have all those pesky limits to his power. FDR wasn’t stupid enough to say it in public, but look at his record. Obama just EO’s and EP’s his way around it. And yet….the bad guy here is BUSH?!?

    Yeah – intellectual honesty at its finest, right here on display.

  11. #11 |  Windy | 

    Excellent comment, el coronado, if we still had the ability to rate comments you’d have a +1 from me.

    So many people people ignore the earliest violations of the Constitution by presidents and congress, they tend to instead focus on only the most recent violations, but if the people had taken action on those first violations, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in now and we’d be having to deal with only the current attempts to violate our rights and our Law of the Land.

    “Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws, or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own existence.” — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark – Mapp vs. Ohio

    The U.S. Constitution may be flawed, but it’s a whole lot better than what we have now.

  12. #12 |  Adrian Ratnapala | 

    @Other Sean: the thing is that Star Trek screenwriters are pretty close to being among the “Professional Sophists”. Even if Cap’n Kirk shows up, I wouldn’t trust him.

    I haven’t seen the episode, but from Maggie’s description it sounds like the targets are lowbrow christians. Well those guys have their flaws, but in this decade, they are not the people placing a temple guard around the US constitution. Quite the opposite in fact.

  13. #13 |  Other Sean | 


    It’s true, it’s true. You just know those writers were lab-grade specimens of the aristocratic left – heavy on the moralistic attitudes, light on any genuine respect for individual freedom and choice.

    They gave us the civil rights movement, and followed it up with the welfare state. They “stopped” the war in Vietnam, but did nothing to slow the drug war. They demanded free speech on campus in the 1960s, only to muzzle it when they rose to faculty status in the 1990s. They fought for the rights of the accused, then made sure there were enough laws on the books to accuse any American at any time. They refused to sacrifice earthly happiness in the name of religion, and grew up to demand that everyone else start sacrificing earthly happiness in the name of the environment. They stood for tolerance and fought against the stale consensus, then they went on to build modern progressivism into a ruthlessly intolerant and shamelessly preachy consensus.

    Hey…ask me what I think of the prospects for a left-libertarian alliance? Go ahead, ask.

  14. #14 |  Tax rebel | 

    “Liberty” is identified within the Dclaration of Independence to be a specific object for government to secure for the people; to be “… denied the authority to put a lien on and repossess those rights, but it is further required to protect those rights.”

    Are you aware that Liberty has been steadfastly held by the Supreme Court to include the Right to pursue a livelihood?

    And that such fundamental rights cannot be subject to a tax or fee because if it were otherwise, such rights could be taxed out of existence ?

    And that the courts have never adjudicated the income tax does, or does not, infringe upon such a right?

    If the income tax is a valid tax upon the pursuit of a livelihood, the government can properly confiscate 100 percent of the earnings of everyone.

    Would this not be a condition of slavery and stand the concept of the “sovereign citizen” upon its head??

  15. #15 |  David McElroy | 

    Our “legal code grounded in religion”? What have you been injecting into your veins? America’s Founding Fathers expounded Christian ethics, but they were adamant in not letting the powers of state dictate or enforce any religion. The local ordinances may have in some cases imposed a certain religious requirement, like prohibiting liquor sales on Sunday, but the feds did not go there. In fact, some of the founders were, like Payne, atheists, and many distrustful of institutional religion. As time passed, the State has become legally hostile to Christian practice and intrudes ever deeper upon the turf of the Church. Obamacare is a case in point, as is 501 c 3 being used to muzzle pastors. Any mention of God or Christ is being ruthlessly expunged from the public domain. Freedom of religion is being perverted to freedom from religion. Christians are being pushed into the closet!