Sisyphus Shrugged - Land of the wretched refuse and home of the brave
Lasciate ogni speranza and put your feet up.
jmhm
jmhm
Share
Land of the wretched refuse and home of the brave
So you're here. Unless you're a cave sloth or a TRex, somebody with a lot of guts went to an awful lot of trouble to make that possible. They walked here from Asia, or they came over in a wooden boat or they survived being kidnapped and enslaved or they crammed the hold of a ship without any lifeboats or escaped any one of a few centuries of wars and privation in the rest of the world or maybe they studied as if their lives depended on it and stepped on a plane.

As Bill Murray said in Stripes, we're here because every decent country on earth threw us out, because they didn't want us or because they stopped growing and someone down the trunk of your family tree wanted to be in the land of the really big pie - a pie that wasn't all carved up and handed out centuries before. A pie with some pieces left.

You may be one of those ancestors yourself.

Anyway, if you're here, somewhere in your blood is the blood of someone with a lot of guts.

Some of us forget that what we have was built by new people earning a better place in the world by making the country grow.

Some of us forget that there are people from other lands making our country grow right now to earn a better place in the world.

You got yours? Mazel tov. Sit on it and hope it hatches. The rest of us have a world to build.

You might take a moment to ask yourself - if your ancestors had a choice, would they have chosen you to come build their new world with them, or would they have chosen the guy who washes dishes at that little storefront chinese restaurant that delivers cheap food when everyone else is closed?

Who do you figure they'd have more in common with?

And would they have wanted to find you standing at dockside waiting for them?

Would you have let them in?

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...


This is who we are. If anyone tells you different, they're wrong. If anyone for purely selfish reasons does anything to make it different, they're wrong too. We can change it back, and we should. We have fine words telling us who we are. We are the people of this land. It's ours. We built it, we maintain it, and we force it to get better.

We may be the children of this country, but we're also its parents.

If there's one thing I've learned from being a parent, it's that it's worth the effort to raise a child you can live with, because you're going to have to live with the child you raise.

Yeah, yeah, you got yours. Well, what you have is a piece of a growing enterprise, something that brave people have volunteered to build and maintain in return for a place at the table, the same as your ancestors did.

I thank them, the ones who came four hundred years ago and the ones who stepped off a plane this morning.

And I'm very very proud that my country is the one they chose.

Happy 4th.
Comments
supergee From: supergee Date: July 4th, 2003 09:00 am (UTC) (linkie thing)
In the 60s I liked to think of us as the rest of the world's draft dodgers.
incendiarymind From: incendiarymind Date: July 4th, 2003 09:24 am (UTC) (linkie thing)
That was a truly amazing entry! It's definitely important to remember that this country wasn't built on a selfish notion. It was built by forging ahead against the odds.
myasma From: myasma Date: July 4th, 2003 09:31 am (UTC) (linkie thing)
What a beautiful essay. Thanks!

I am fortunate in the fact that my wife's family have all come here from a very poor country in the past ten years, and I have been able to appreciate the opportunity that presents itself to them in this country.
From: sf_rose Date: July 4th, 2003 09:50 am (UTC) (linkie thing)
You got yours? Mazel tov. Sit on it and hope it hatches. The rest of us have a world to build.

Tikkun Olam. Amen.
drood From: drood Date: July 4th, 2003 10:28 am (UTC) (linkie thing)
That was the best July fourth entry I could've read today.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 4th, 2003 04:48 pm (UTC) (linkie thing)

from skippy

nicely written, julia!

skippy (www.xnerg.blogspot.com)
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 5th, 2003 08:08 pm (UTC) (linkie thing)

How have things changed

Well, let's see.

We don't own slaves any more. We allow most citizens to vote (except fellons in some states) We have universal public education. We have social security for our older citizens, We have free lunches for school age children, We have national parks held for the citizenry. We have unemployment benefits, we have pubic universities, We have public transportation.

Are there still a hundred things wrong? Absolutely. Have we gone backwards during the bush administration? Yes. But that doesn't mean we haven't made progress in the last 220 + years.

The very term progressive is one of hope, one in which we will fight and struggle for improvement of the nation and the world as a whole. We must be balanced in our views. Only seeing the bad is as wrong as the right wingers who refuse to see any of the bad.
jmhm From: jmhm Date: July 5th, 2003 08:14 pm (UTC) (linkie thing)

Re: How have things changed

thank you.
jmhm From: jmhm Date: July 6th, 2003 07:06 am (UTC) (linkie thing)
We have the words.

Not a pretty world we live in. Never has been.

People came here from other places, and their model for a government was what governments in the rest of the world were doing.

But we have the words.

Throughout our history, there have been people who believed the words, and they said we were something new, something better, and we had to be that proud new thing that was down on paper, because of the words and because that's who we are.

Does everyone here believe the words? Shit, of course not. They've been terribly inconvenient for lots of people, and lots of people have pretended they didn't exist, or they didn't quite mean what they mean, or they're not relevant.

We committed genocide. We behaved like every colonial empire ever did, and probably much more efficiently because we didn't have to take a boat to Texas or the Black Hills. We stole Texas and Panama (albeit largely from the descendants of the Europeans who stole them from their original settlers, the ones who came across the land bridge from Asia). Hell, after Lincoln was gone, the Republicans tossed the former slaves into a hundred years of Jim Crow to keep Tilden out of the White House. Women had to fight just as hard here to escape their traditional place in a patriarchal culture as they did anywhere on earth where they've fought their way to nominal, if not completely effective, equality.

We have ruthless people in our history.

We also have the words.

People who believe that those words are what this country is or should be have fought for them, and they mean something.

They mean Harry Truman, who was something of a racist himself, integrating the army because it was the right thing. They mean women having the right to vote. They mean Jimmy Carter giving back the Panama Canal. They mean Jane Adams and Upton Sinclair and Harriet Tubman and the Marshall plan in place of the spectacular ballsup Europe made of things after WW1. They mean money flowing to smaller countries instead of from them.

You think the Belgians could have put pressure on King Leopold to let a few people in the Congo keep their ears? Please. That's the trouble with kings and emperors and czars and kaisers and every other l'etat, c'est moi system the human race has worked out to funnel the goodies to the top.

There is no-one above the law here.

That's not to say that there are no end-runs around it, or perversions, or flat-out power grabs (see Bush v Gore or Hayes v Tilden or any one of a seemingly infinite list of broken treaties with the first settlers) but the system, gamed as it is, is designed for redress of grievances and people who believe in the words have used the system and there have been acts of conspicuous decency by people who put the words about How it's always been.

I'm transparently proud of those words. In this sad fallen world, they've been the spur to some of the great noble revolutions of the enlightenment.

I don't just love my country because it's mine. I love it because we stood up in front of the world and said who we wanted to be, and there have been enough people who believed what we said that we've come far closer to it.

Are we there yet? It is to laugh, or maybe cry. Lately we've been feeling the strains of a bunch of very unpleasant people trying to accelerate in reverse.

So what do we do - grumble about tradition?

No, we fight.

Because we have the words.

We gave the words to the world. I think it became, in small ways and large, a better world.

You think we are our worst. I think we are our journey toward our best.

If you've given up on us, tend to your own knitting. We'll be watching for you to fix the world.

The americans won't let you? Funny, the British said that to us.
jmhm From: jmhm Date: July 6th, 2003 09:40 am (UTC) (linkie thing)

Oh, deplore, deplore, deplore.

Just a friendly notice - I'm not going to do this any more.

Anyone who's read this blog, at all, ever, knows that the things that are done in the name of my country enrage me.

I do what I can to help, even if I can only say "Hey, this is what's happening - doesn't it suck?"

Consensus is a powerful thing.

If that isn't enough for you, be Nelson Mandela. Be Martin Luther King. Be fucking Samson, if you have the nerve and the casual disregard for the people you crush who had nothing to do with building the damn temple.

Or, you know, you can just deplore things.

How righteous of you.

I'll sit here with my head in the sand like an ostrich and raise money for the kids in my daughter's school to have toilet paper to use and books to read and school supplies, and I'll help a group of children from all over the world (seventy percent of them are first- or second-generation americans and speak english as a second language) grow up to be part of my america, the one where they can earn a place in the world.

Maybe it's not much, over the history of human infamy, but it's a step forward.

If that isn't enough to take your attention, perhaps it's lucky for these particular children that they have someone around with less righteous preoccupations.

Anyone and everyone is welcome to fill their days to bursting with the rapturous self-assurance of scorning whatever turns their scorn on.

I don't have time for it. I have, maybe not big or important or significant things, but I think better things to do.

So don't do it here.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 6th, 2003 10:27 am (UTC) (linkie thing)

from Pligget

While I don't condone the writing of those who can only pour scorn, it wrankles when people write about how great their country is. Pretty much everything that has been written here in praise of the (modern day) USA can be said of many other (modern day) countries - their democracy, their welfare systems, their aid for developing nations, etc. I accept also that most of the criticisms that "anonymous" levels at the US can equally apply to these other countries.
Isn't it time we started to pull all these nations together, and to talk about what we all do collectively, rather than what one nation does better than another?
jmhm From: jmhm Date: July 6th, 2003 11:04 am (UTC) (linkie thing)

Re: from Pligget

I tend to agree with you. I think we all have to do this together, or we'll all hang separately. And I believe that much of the progressive government action in the international world is happening outside our borders right just now.

Still and all, when Europe had a chance to rebuild along their own lines, we got the League of Nations and World War 2. When we had our chance, we got the Marshall Plan and a Europe filled with democracy, welfare systems and aid for developing nations.

We didn't start the enlightenment, we haven't always lived by it, and we certainly don't own it, but it makes me proud that some of the shining examples of its effects came, against all odds, from here.

I think it's because at our root is a declaration that we have to be better than we perhaps naturally tend to be.

I think that's a good thing.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 6th, 2003 05:47 pm (UTC) (linkie thing)

Belated thanks

Julia, I'm late, as usual, but I'm linking to this now. Ignore the trolls; you did us all a service posting this. Thanks!

Lilith
www.arationalanimal.blogspot.com
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 6th, 2003 06:22 pm (UTC) (linkie thing)
Just a note: The "land bridge from Asia" is only a theory, and one that is increasingly discredited. Many Indian oral histories relate that they have always been here. There is some DNA evidence to support this.
zoe_trope From: zoe_trope Date: July 6th, 2003 07:08 pm (UTC) (linkie thing)
Looks like the only people brave enough to jump in your shit are too cowardly to leave their names. Figures.

Thanks for sharing.

Z.T.

(Found you through a link in pdanielson's journal.)
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 7th, 2003 11:43 am (UTC) (linkie thing)
Perhaps I am misunderstanding the full meaning of this post, but it seems to me you make a wonderful point that we as Americans see the bad as well as the good, and that we are given an opportunity, duty really, to change those things when we can. We do not lie down as our leader does the wrong thing, takes us down the wrong path. We speak up. What in that says that we as a nation are blameless? It doesn't, just that we are fortunate enough to live somewhere we can stand up and make changes as we see fit. There is a lot of bad we do, but there is a lot of good too.

We as citizens don't necessarily agree with the atrocities committed in our name or "best interest," but we can speak up against it if we don't.

That is part of the greatness of this country. It is a part worth fighting for, even if we are fighting amongst ourselves. We aren't perfect and don't claim to be. But we are all equally able to take a stand against what is wrong.

psycheandamor From: psycheandamor Date: July 8th, 2003 09:39 am (UTC) (linkie thing)
[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<font="trebuchet>') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

<font="Trebuchet MS">Someone at another blog said that this essay was an example of "tough-minded liberalism" as an answer to "compassionate conservatism." Well, whatever. I would only like to point out that Jefferson was a liberal in his time and would be considered a radical conservative in ours. Something like the neocons before O'Reilly made that an ugly word.

Anyway...

So what if Americans have fucked things up? Repeatedly?
Does that have <i>anything</i> at all to do with the fundamental principles upon which the nation was founded?
Even if the founders only gave them lip service while pursuing genocide and denying some people their inalienable rights based on something as ridiculous as skin color--even then, it does not follow that they are not good goals, worth fighting for.

Some of us Americans are fighting the rest of the Americans over these issues.

And yet our detractors say: <i>Too bad. You're lumped in with them anyway, by association.</i>

So the recent Muslim immigrant bears the same culpability in the genocide of the Indians as the most purebread WASP...
...And the newborn child is just as guilty as the American collaborators who made 9/11 possible.

Sounds to me like the argument of one who is more interested in hating America than in diagnosing a problem or offering solutions. You have <i>a priori</i> decided to hate the Great Satan. That hate is your end; any and all data you can find is your means.

Sucks to be pigeonholed like that, right? Well, next time don't fucking set yourself up for it by emotionalising all over the place.</font>
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 8th, 2003 03:17 pm (UTC) (linkie thing)

Land of the Wretched Refuse

Nice essay and great sentiments. Sorry to see that some troll sees fit to convict the folks most resistant to the political monolith that gained power without the consent of the majority.

Morons are universal, though, like poop and snot. Just wash your hands and fahgeddaboudit. And thanks for the great essay.

-Cowboy Kahlil of ReachM
ahhhs. -- hmmm?
profile
Sisyphus Shrugged
User: jmhm
Name: Sisyphus Shrugged
links
tags