July 4th, 1776

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.

Normandy

A view of the commemorative window in the cathedral at St. Mere-Eglise, France honoring the Airborn units that landed and freed the city on D-Day.

I wish I were back again this year. It is humbling to meet those still alive who survived, and an honor to tell a small part of their tales. It is fascinating and awe inspiring to explore all the fortifications that are still there, and illuminating to visit all the museums. It is a pleasure to talk with the locals, who are still very grateful to Americans and other allies for, as one lady put it, “our freedom.”

A view from inside a German gun emplacement at Omaha Beach, Normandy, France
Looking out over a marker describing the Mulberry artificial piers/harbor used at Omaha Beach, Normandy, France
The remains of ships and the supply system sunk just off the coast
What it looked like then
My Battlemug at Utah beach, just after sunrise
One of the old German bunkers converted into a home. You see this a lot as they were massive and destroying them is expensive and could do extensive damage to the surrounding area.
A tribute to Danish forces
These guns survived bombs and heavy shelling. Of the four, only one was destroyed by a lucky shot that got through as the magazine doors were open.
The statue of Major Richard Winters of Band of Brothers fame
The destroyed gun
A British survivor I interviewed (should still be up at Blackfive) who also survived one of the bloodiest battles of the campaign
Another converted bunker
A survivor of Utah Beach, with his daughter atop Pointe du Hoc. As he and I walked together, he looked around and said “I guess we didn’t have it so bad after all.”
At Juno Beach
La Flambe
Sunrise at Omaha Beach, our flag flanked by the new Les Braves and the old memorial
Inside the German command post at Quistreham
Outside the German command post at Ouistreham
Pegasus Bridge

There are lots more, thinking I need to do a new book…

Remembering The 50

Today, I take the time to remember the 50. On this night, in 1944, prisoners of war staged a daring large-scale escape from Stalag Luft III. The movie is good, but isn’t accurate since it was a Royal Air Force show. All but three of the prisoners who escaped were recaptured, and of those, Adolph Hitler personally ordered the deaths of 50 of them. Today, I raise a glass to them, and to all who dared and risked all to do so.

If you want to know more, go here, here, here, and here.

Food For Thought Tuesday

There is more to write about the Trump Doctrine, but it could literally become several doctoral theses in the years to come. Meantime, there is a lot of good food for thought out there, and I’m going to share some of it here.

Older, but still worth the read is why there won’t be a draft or WWIII.

How Dare You Not Include Us??? The real reason behind some of the strong reaction.

The media misses not one, but many huge stories. This is but one of them.

Is Donald Trump writing a farewell letter to the Middle East? An interesting possibility.

If anyone thinks that Journolist is dead, take a look around. One good example

I agree that the leadership of the Democratic party hates Trump with a passion that leaves them no way, no room, to love anything else. To that end, they have embraced the enemies of the United States as a mean to defeat Trump. Just one part of the mask slipping. For them, it doesn’t matter if Americans are killed or the interests of the United States and its Citizens are compromised — all that matters is winning and defeating Trump.

A companion piece to the excellent story linked yesterday in the discussion of the Trump Doctrine. Read it, and try not to weep.

A Never-Trumper has an epiphany. Now if we could only get Rod Dreher, who’s writing on faith and issues in various churches I read somewhat religiously, to quit clutching his pearls, pissing his panties, declaring FlounceCon1, and flouncing to his fainting couch every time Trump inhales…

The media is in the tank for the DNC, and would be willing to die (literally, I suspect) to protect the illusion and reputation (such as it is) of Obama. But one example is this cringe-worthy effort out of the rapidly tanking CNN.

More questions than answers. Have to agree, the news reporting today does bring that out.

The world is indeed watching, and not just the Iranian leadership. U.S. leadership, and the leadership of the so-called free world, is being watched as well. The masks are slipping, will they come completely off in the days to come?

The Assassination Of Forgiveness

The Assassination of Forgiveness 

In watching the news, I’ve noticed several stories where past words or actions have cost people jobs, college acceptances, and more.  It doesn’t matter how many years ago the words or actions took place, the person must be punished now.  

There have been some good and interesting points raised in response.  A common theme on the conservative side is that it is part and parcel of being a post-Christian nation.  A more libertarian approach has been to lament that one can dig back far enough on anyone to find something, and that we really need to stop doing this.  A more rational approach has been to point out that people can learn and grow, and that as such we should not hold the past against the person that exists now.  

The idea of forgiveness is not new, nor is the related concept of rehabilitation.  However, neither has been the norm for much of the history of the world.  Hammurabic and other ancient codes focused on vengeance rather than forgiveness and rehabilitation.  An eye for an eye was the norm throughout most of the world.  

Indeed, the laws of many ancient societies were quite draconian by modern standards.  Slavery and death were widely used punishments, and the actions of one could land a whole family in permanent slavery that extended to offspring.  Torture and maiming were more “moderate” responses for many.  

The key is that any such marked both individuals and family units.  Examples were made so that you saw the lifelong consequences of breaking the law.  There was very little forgiveness, and rehabilitation was largely limited to a minuscule amount that was of use to the governments/leadership in question.  Such rehabilitated were, with certain rare exceptions, never fully trusted again.  

While you can find at least some small amount of forgiveness and/or rehabilitation in some minor philosophies/religions around the world, it truly did not become widespread until the rise of Christianity.  

While forgiveness is a key point to Christianity, rehabilitation is an inferred point.  An inferred point that came to have a huge impact.  

The idea of forgiveness come from Judaic beliefs as outlined in the Old Testament.    A recurring theme is God forgiving his people when they (repeatedly) screwed up.  Which we did (and do) on a regular basis.  This led to the concept of forgiving others who wronged us.  In the Gospels, Jesus expands on this and makes it a formal part of the New Covenant:  as God forgives you your sins, so too should you forgive those who wronged you.  

There is, of course, a lot more too it than that, but this is a column and not a theology dissertation.  I’m just hitting the high points, and am going to do the same for the other key point:  rehabilitation.  

The early Church was given the mission of spreading the Gospels and conversion, with Jesus formally passing  on the ability to forgive sins, as had he, to the Apostles.  Like the concept of Purgatory, the idea of penance grew out of a mixture of tradition (sacrifice to appease God and gain forgiveness) and inference from the words of the Apostles.  Forgiveness was not automatic.  Rather, it was earned by sincere repentance and by doing a task or tasks as penance (punishment) so as to earn that forgiveness.  

Punishment, repentance, forgiveness.  This was quite a concept, and it soon found use outside the Church and became, arguably, a major philosophical concept within the Enlightenment.  The idea that someone who had done wrong could be punished and then released to “sin no more” had appeal.  It allowed productive members of society to be retained (even if they had to move to escape the stigma) while keeping them from becoming a drain on society via crippling, etc.  Yes, I’m oversimplifying and skipping a few steps/centuries.  See above.  

This is a concept that has grown and evolved over the centuries.  It is important for many reasons.  Which is why it and related concepts are hated by authoritarian regimes/philosophies.  

At their core, Christianity and the Enlightenment (and yes, I know the Enlightenment was in many ways a reaction to the Catholic Church) are about the individual.  The Gospels make it clear:  the choice is yours to accept or reject Christ as your savior.  Yes, Christ died for the sins of the world, but the choice to accept that gift is left up to each individual.  The Enlightenment took things further, holding that each individual had both the capability and the responsibility for deciding what was right for them.  No kings or others needed, you can figure it out on your own.  A radical concept that still sits bad with some — I know at least one Catholic scholar who refers to it as “The Endarkenment.”  

For the purposes of my thesis here, both Christianity and the Enlightenment support individualism.  Which is why both are attacked, derided, and persecuted by those of an authoritarian stripe.  Which also extends to the concepts of justice, punishment/penance, and forgiveness that arise from both.  

Authoritarian regimes can brook no dissent and demand the individual be subsumed to the greater good that is the authoritarian state.  Religion is despised for many reasons, with Christianity despised above all because of that core of individualism as well as its allegiance to a higher power.  There can be no power, no religion, but the state and what thoughts it has right then.  

The same goes for forgiveness and rehabilitation.  Authoritarian regimes can’t afford to forgive and forget.  That enemy will always be an enemy, as if they break with any part of the system they break with all.  Therefore, examples must be made, and since authoritarian regimes must always have an enemy against which the people to hate and rage…  

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was a master of this.  Dissidents and others were persecuted; those who broke the law became permanent examples to the rest.  A few political types were “rehabilitated” if they admitted they are wrong and the State/Party were right and to be obeyed — but they were never trusted again and a number seemed to fade away permanently not long after.  The National Socialist German Workers Party (yep, the Nazi’s) did it too.  

And today we see it again.  Once a thought criminal, always a thought criminal.  The concepts of personal growth, forgiveness, penance, and such are verboten.  The concept of context is verboten:  there is only wrongthink and it must be destroyed.  That it also eliminates all other outside reference to any other systems/civilizations/etc. is a benefit since no authoritarian regime/philosophy can last if there is anything else to which it can be compared (the Taliban and the Buddha’s), especially if that comparison can show that things were or could be better.  All speech, writing, art, broadcasts, thoughts, etc. must be controlled.  

There is more to this, of course, but this sets the basis for continuing discussions and explorations.  There is a very deliberate attempt to assassinate forgiveness and other key beliefs of Western Civilization.  What we are witnessing now, and have been for a while, are the opening volleys aimed at removing them from our lives.  

Trump’s D-Day Speech

No matter what side you take; no matter your opinion of the man; no matter what else you may “feel” about him/his election/etc. — this is an amazing speech. It reminds me in content of Reagan, though the delivery is delightfully his own. Again, no matter your politics you need to stop, watch, listen, and think.