Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Before David Thinking

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

This is my nephew David, who was in town with his bride Danielle, for his 26th birthday last week, from Colorado Springs.

He is a staff sergeant in the Air Force and a computer expert with the 721st Communications Squadron at the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. For those of you into sci-fi television, you will know it as the tunnel entrance to “Stargate Command,” but in actuality, it is NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, a joint U.S.-Canadian operation. During the cold war, it monitored and warned of possible airborne attacks from Russia across Alaska and Canada, and then its mandate expanded to include submarine attacks from anywhere. Post cold war, the role has continued and now includes maritime monitoring and added a homeland security component. In actuality the only function NORAD has fulfilled is “Santa tracking” from the North Pole on Christmas Eve.

As a teenager, he held a historic philosophy; if an event of history happened before he was born, then it wasn’t of any great significance to him; because it happened, “BD” or before David.

Now, I don’t know if he still holds such thoughts today, I doubt it, because he has traveled extensively. He met his wife when they attended the 1999 World Boy Scout Jamboree in Iceland. When he joined the Air Force, he attended technical school and then was assigned to Germany. He spent time in Turkey when Operation Iraqi Freedom began and he has visited many parts of Europe. He is taking college classes and shows signs of being pretty smart.

However, there are plenty of people who seem to share David’s old philosophy.

I have some acquaintances who continue to send me xenophobic rants of “America is a land that requires English only” and suggests that immigrants, “legal” or not must assimilate into “our” culture.

What does that mean? The answers keep coming back as racist!

I percieve the problem as one of “BD.”

My recent travels help me see some of those issues. I traveled through 10 of the 11 western states; the one I missed this trip was Nevada. I hit: Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and back to New Mexico.

The names of the states of Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming were originally Indian words. Idaho and Oregon were not even words, but were made up to describe these places that became states. California, Montana, Colorado and Nevada are derived from Spanish words.

Eight states are named in this country in honor of European royalty and of course Washington was named in honor of what could have been our own royalty. Isn’t it great that he rejected that offer? Why would I want to establish a royalty after spending the last six years fighting against one, he reportedly said.

It is interesting to view the origin of state names and somewhat telling.

You don’t have to go digging through dusty libraries to find simple history lessons. Dig into your pocket and look at the state quarters series.

You will find commonwealths, states, a couple of republics, meaning they were their own country for a few years: Texas and California, in particular, and there was one independent nation, Hawaii.

Britain, France, Spain, Mexico and Russia all laid claim to parts of what is now the continental United States.

There were more than 450 Indian tribes in the United States as of 1880, when only Geronimo and his small band Apache warriors had not been forced onto reservations. How many tribes are now known by the name of their native language?

Under President Thomas Jefferson, the Louisiana Purchase, a French territory, doubled the land size of the United States in 1803.

All of what is now: Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma and parts of: Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado, North and South Dakotas, Wisconsin and Montana make up the area of the purchase.

Take a look at the Louisiana state quarter and you can get an instant geography lesson. Louisiana was admitted April 30, 1812.

The Missouri state quarter features the Gateway Arch at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial National Historical Site, Saint Louis, Mo. and depicts the Corps of Discovery.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led a 39-man expedition up the Missouri river, here at Great Falls, Mont., and across the continental divide, at this point south of Glacier National Park, below, down the Columbia River to the Pacific.
Along the way they met a young Shoshone Indian Sacagawea who lead their way.

She is on a commemorative coin designed by New Mexico artist Glenna Goodacre and the Shoshone model Randy'L He-dow Teton, who was a University of New Mexico student.

Take a look at the new four-nickel set.

The nickel has long honored Jefferson. His profile, as president and his home, Monticello, have graced the coin from 1938 to 2004.

The four-nickel set, known as the Westward Journey nickel series has two images of Jefferson; on in profile, Rembrandt Peale bases the other of him looking forward that on an 1800 painting, when he was vice president.

The two-dollar bill also honors Jefferson. His portrait appears on the observe and on the reserve; Jefferson appears in the image based on John Trumbull’s painting, “The Declaration of Independence.” Jefferson’s image will soon appear as part of the presidential one-dollar golden coin program.

With the acquisition of Texas in 1845, after it had won its independence from Mexico in a war in 1836, Mexico had just recently established its own independence from Spain in 1821. As a result of the 1846 to 1848 Mexican-American War, the U.S. took half of Mexico’s land mass.

All of California and Arizona, most of Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado, then just a little bit of Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Oregon were surrendered to the U.S., which compensated Mexico with a total of $15 million.

The country grew by about a third. The purchase of Alaska from Russia added a huge amount of land. There were other acquisitions, including Hawaii, the Gadsden Purchase and some trading with Canada.

This is a California roadside historic marker, between Petaluma and Bodega Bay in Sonoma County, which notes that four Spanish land grants converged near this spot. It is another indication of a history that has evolved. In New Mexico, the vestiges of land grants remain.

In the mid 1800s, there was a great push to settle the continent and a political theory emerged; Manifest Destiny, the concept that white European protestants had a God given right to conqueror anything in their path without regard for the native population. The California gold rush, Nevada’s silver rush, the discovery of gold in the Black Hills, in the Dakotas, sacred to the Sioux people, along with religious persecution of the Mormons, brought thousands of whites west.

One of the ways the settlers dealt with suppressing Native Americans was for the government to make and break treaties and to destroy their way of life, most specifically by killing the great herds of buffalo to near extinction. Two states, Kansas and North Dakota, have buffalo displayed on their quarters.

Immigration laws were enacted to keep certain groups of people from entering the country. The first law barred Chinese, followed by Japanese. Immigration quotas have been used since, under the shadow of racism.

The Senate has been unable to come to grips with the new immigration bill.

The rhetoric is crazed at best; unrealistic and harmful to opponents true interests, which is profits.

Driving through California, I passed through some of the largest and most fertile agricultural areas on earth. Yet, the productivity and efficiency is borne upon the backs of non-English speaking immigrants, legally or “illegally” in this country. The economy of this country is fueled by their efforts. Agriculture is spared strict compliance with the wage and hour provisions that the rest of the labor force is required to follow. Your back yard picnic today costs a fraction of what it might if the cheap labor of immigrants were replaced by competitive wages of rest of the work force.

The reality is that this country’s population’s complexion is continuing to change. The founding fathers may have all been white, yet the country they established offers hope to mankind that is colorblind. American values are what draw people of different cultures, with different languages to our philosophies. Our values and culture will accept their backgrounds as we have accepted other traditions of other foreign lands.

Jefferson would have to ponder what he caused by writing the Declaration of Independence 231 years ago. He, himself, had 50 years to contemplate what he’d done. He knew he hadn’t found perfection. He rose to the highest office of the land, yet didn’t think it important enough to cite on his headstone. Instead, he listed that he’d authored the Declaration of Independence, founded the University of Virginia and wrote the Statutes on Religious Freedoms in the Virginia legislature. He and his co-author, political ally and nemesis John Adams, both died on the fourth of July a half century after their greatest achievement. Jefferson left this country on the path to riches, yet he was personally bankrupt. He spoke several languages, and held slaves; though he legally could not divest himself of them, he came to oppose the practice.

Today is the Fourth of July, a legal holiday. There is only one civic duty to perform today, read Jefferson’s greatest words.

I’ll provide them for you.

The Declaration of Independence

IN CONGRESS, 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 of 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 shewn, 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 mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations 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 harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the 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 a 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 neighbouring 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, burnt 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 & 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 endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an 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 Brittish 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 of 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 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.

Fifty-six signatures appear on the Declaration.

Now, go fly the flag, have a hot dog, throw a baseball back and forth and watch the fireworks and maybe think about how we can improve our country's ever sinking position on the world’s performance stage.

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