Thursday, July 06, 2006

Reflections on Independence, Volume 4

This is the fourth entry in my annual series of Reflections on Independence. This year is really more of a progress report than a philosophical grok on the meaning of Independence. Where are we in our struggle to take back our government, indeed our form of government? In the first in this series, four years ago, I made my first open call for peaceful revolution on grounds that the Declaration of Independence anticipates periodic revolutions and recognizes our current circumstances as appropriate cause. At the time, I didn't know anybody else taking that forward a position, and didn't even find myself so emboldened on a regular basis.

By spring 2005 I was frequently asking, what will it take to make the phrase "peaceful revolution" socially acceptable? In some quarters perhaps it never will be. But I've now used it enough to know that there really is not anyplace where I would avoid using it (except perhaps the airport, but I won't go there, literally). When described as a shift in the balance of power between the government and We The People, peaceful revolution can be disarmed of its scary connotations and presented instead as concrete steps that all citizens can recognize as warranted.

I addressed this more thoroughly in Blueprint For Peaceful Revolution (.pdf), a paper I circulated last September and then included as the final chapter in my book, We Do Not Consent (.pdf). This family of ideas has also been validated in the form of the Voter Confidence Resolution, adopted by the City council of Arcata, CA (.pdf) on July 20, 2005; the Voters' Resolution of No Confidence (.pdf) endorsed just this past month by the California Election Protection Network; my rousing speech to the Humboldt County chapter of the NAACP on MLK Day 2006; the Humboldt Revolution community forum I helped plan and present in February; prepared remarks I gave (QuickTime video, four minutes) at the Voter Confidence Committee press conference during last month's Primary "election"; and perhaps most importantly, the many everyday interactions I have with people eager to tell me of some Diebold disgrace or other that they had just learned about.

These are just my highlights, and only from the past year. Though it can sometimes be difficult to perceive the progress, to me this is clear evidence of how far we've come. With the LA Times as the latest to question whether Mr. Bush has committed war crimes, it can no longer be portrayed as a desperate stretch to connect the Declaration's Abuses and Usurpations with the conduct of this administration. There is a rapidly growing awareness and shifting consciousness about the attacks on our Freedoms and the loss of our unalienable rights.

Several people have asked me, over the past year or so, why I focus so much on the Declaration of Independence rather than the U.S. Constitution. At this time there is nothing legally binding about the Declaration while the Constitution is the law of the land. Herein lies the crux of this year's Reflection on Independence. When those who create and enforce laws do not themselves follow those laws, their behavior goes beyond lawlessness and actually voids the basic compact of civilized society. We can no more feel guaranteed of universal health care or a balanced budget than we can be assured the Constitution will protect and preserve our rights or hold accountable those attempting to be above the law. Without a win-win option, the strategy becomes No Deal!

With the elimination of the basic ground rules defining the relationship between the government and the Governed, pretensions of normalcy evaporate - all bets are off. To go on pretending that this relationship is proper is to enable the abusive spouse who hits us. Our response must be: WE DO NOT CONSENT. This is more than just a great meme. This phrase must reflect our actions. We must stop consenting to being treated this way. We must withdraw our complicity from the means of doing us harm. A few weeks ago I posted some examples of what this might look like. Much more discussion is needed in this area.

The Declaration and Constitution are both models, ideals we should strive to uphold. The big strategic advantage of the Declaration is that it allows We The People to wield the power and call the shots. While we idealistically cling to the Constitution, Mr. Bush attaches signing statements to new laws, as if crossing his fingers to void a deal on which he is simultaneously shaking hands. We will continue to be as powerless as this as long as we accept our voided deal, our broken social compact, as if it were intact and functioning properly. Certainly in the world, and I believe also here in this country, we are the vast majority now who see this dichotomy.

What we need is a new Declaration of Independence, in simple modern language, that says the Power belongs to the People and when the government takes more of this Power than We are prepared to give to the government, that government no longer serves us and will be altered or abolished according to one of our nation's most revered historical documents, the Declaration of Independence.

In the spirit of this Reflection series, I have again pasted the Declaration of Independence below and encourage you to read or hopefully re-read it, giving careful attention to the similarities between the original list of Abuses and Usurpations and those we endure today. Peaceful revolution is necessary, NOW!

Declaration of Independence

July 4, 1776

The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united* States of America.

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

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 -- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shown that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them 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. Such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the Necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The History of the present King of Great- Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World.

HE has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.

HE has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance, unless suspended in their Operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

HE has refused to pass other Laws for the Accommodation of large Districts of People, unless those People would relinquish the Right of Representation in the Legislature, a Right inestimable to them and formidable to Tyrants only.

HE has called together Legislative Bodies at Places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the Depository of their public Records, for the sole Purpose of fatiguing them into Compliance with his Measures.

HE has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly Firmness his Invasions on the Rights of the People.

HE has refused for a long Time, after such Dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the meantime exposed to all the Dangers of Invasion from without, and the Convulsions within.

HE has endeavored to prevent the Population of these States; for that Purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migration hither, and raising the Conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

HE has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

HE has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Tenure of their Offices, and the Amount and Payment of their Salaries.

HE has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their Substance.

HE has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our Legislature.

HE has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to Civil Power.

HE has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

FOR quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us:

FOR protecting them, by mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

FOR cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World:

FOR imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

FOR depriving us in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury:

FOR transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended Offences:

FOR abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighboring Province, establishing therein an arbitrary Government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an Example and fit Instrument for introducing the same absolute Rule into these Colonies:

FOR taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

FOR suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all Cases whatsoever.

HE has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

HE has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burned our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.

HE is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the Works of Death, Desolation, and Tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.

HE has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the Executioners of their Friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

HE has excited domestic Insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the Inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is undistinguished Destruction of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions.

IN every stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms: Our repeated Petitions 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.

NOR have we been wanting in Attentions to our British Brethren. We have warned them from Time to Time of attempts by their Legislature to extend an unwarrantable Jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the Circumstances of our Emigration and Settlement here. We have appealed to their native Justice and Magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the Ties of our common Kindred to disavow these Usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our Connections and Correspondence. They too have been deaf to the Voice of Justice and Consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the Necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of Mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace, Friends.

WE, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES of AMERICA, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT STATES may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

* New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
* Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
* Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
* Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
* New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
* New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
* Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
* Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
* Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
* Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
* North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
* South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
* Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton.


* Although this capitalization of "united" differs from the images of copies of the Declaration of Independence viewable at the Library of Congress's Web site (*, it follows the capitalization found on the images of the Declaration of Independence held by the National Archives and Records Administration (*


Posted by Dave Berman - 5:53 PM | Permalink
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Read or Post a Comment

Thank you for this, Dave. And for the 'meme' link.

Below are some disorganized thoughts intended to contribute to the conversation...

A new declaration will be more complex than Jefferson's. In 1776, all eyes were on one common enemy: British monarchy. And on one person: King George. The simplicity of that declaration made it easy for most people to grasp. It was intellectually easy for people to talk about over beer and bear. Jefferson's 'HE' and 'FOR' are all aimed at one man, separated from 'We' by a vast ocean.

Who or what are we freeing ourselves from now? Who or what is keeping us from being free? Without a singularity of some kind, this new revolution could be too scattered and might have undesirable results.

Are we to declare ourselves independent from the 'United States government' and all its employees and infrastructure?

Are we to declare ourselves independent from a country that offers as much freedom as any country on Earth (at least according to most of its citizens).

I was going to list pros and cons of sparking a revolution now vs. what it was like in 1776, but it's too much to go through and it will probably all even-out anyway. "Hey, well Jefferson didn't have DSL..." and so on.

Your proposal is a peaceful revolution. And maybe the only way that will happen is if the vast majority are turned on to it and if those in positions of power/influence choose to listen. You are wise to focus on voting because if that is crooked then the 'powers that be' (PTB) can create their own majority out of thin air, while you, me, and those with seborrheic dermatitis, are left scratching our (respective) heads.


Posted by Anonymous Dave Migliore @ Jul 7, 2006, 10:57:00 AM
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The comparison to "an abusive spouse who hits us" is interesting. Other parts of those relationships are extreme control, blaming the victim and learned helplessness. The perpetrator doesn't take responsibility -- no matter what -- and the victim (without hope and convinced that there is no escape) stays silent and endures the abuse.

Jane Allen

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ Jul 8, 2006, 12:02:00 AM
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Responding to Dave Migliore in comment #1:

Throughout We Do Not Consent, and GuvWurld before it, I have emphasized the tradition of civil disobedience, specifically within the historical context of the Consent of the Governed as the sole source of government legitimacy. The Power is and always was Ours, collectively. Granted, when wearing ankle shackles it can be hard to click our heels three times to take our country back. But the point remains: we are the leaders we've been waiting for. It doesn't matter who is oppressing us, or how nicely we ask them to stop. It is ultimately up to us. So rather than wondering who to rebel from, I come back to my standard-bearing question: what would be better? If we focus here and on claiming our rightful powers, I think the framing of our challenge avoids some of the questions you suggest.

I think you are right that making things intellectually simpler will be helpful. I wish for all my writing to be reviewed and dissected and the salient components distilled further for mass consumption. That can happen through using the comments here on the blog, but also by applying the "what would be better?" perspective to the review. My own inclination has been to encourage my local government to engage in municipal civil disobedience - refusing to follow state and federal mandates that do direct harm to our community. Widespread local response of this kind will become revolutionary and may stay short of secession. Strategically I think this has more potential than immediately advocating dissolution of the Union, though I can't imagine a compelling explanation warranting continued use of the name UNITED States. We are anything but United. If we look for what does still bind us, however, it is our inalienable rights and the collective Power of We The People which we must only delegate through legitimately verified elections.

This is just my take. If we can approach it more wisely, tell me, what would be better?

Posted by Blogger Dave Berman @ Jul 8, 2006, 5:30:00 PM
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In response to Jane Allen, comment #2:

Some good points here yourself. In particular I note the idea that enduring abuse is accounted for in the Declaration of Independence:

"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shown that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them 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."

I know I'm not the only one determined to endure no more. And so I offer a mantra to all who have had enough: We Do Not Consent.

Posted by Blogger Dave Berman @ Jul 8, 2006, 5:50:00 PM
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