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The Duty of Patriots (a Manifesto.)

 

     Once upon a time, in a remote part of the world colonized predominantly by Britannia, a group of men gathered, drawn by the belief that no distant capricious government should be allowed to force their will on the lives of others. Indeed, so passionately did they believe in the right to self-determination that they were prepared to kill for it...if necessary, to die for it. Gathered together, this Congress of representatives from thirteen colonies declared war on their oppressors with a document that would shake the world: The Declaration of Independence. Drafted as a challenge to a king, its opening sentence would become a challenge to all of humanity:

      "We hold these Truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

     This was the true heart and soul of that fragile, improbable little nation, being brought into the world with no certainty that it would live out the year. Even the Bill of Rights of the Constitution is largely just a reiteration of this one principle: If all men are equal, then no man has the right to silence somebody else's opinion. If all men are equal, then nobody has the right to dictate religious beliefs to anybody else. If we have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then we must not be deprived of any of these things lightly or unfairly; in the end, the mandate of the court system is as simple and as staggering as the principle that all are equal before the law, from the humblest to the mightiest.

     What do these words have to do with America today? Everything...and not enough. Even during America's infancy, these noble words were not dutifully practiced. Women were treated like property. Black people were literally property. The rich preyed on the poor and the government did not hear their cries. The Protestants persecuted the Catholics, and just about everyone persecuted the Jews. In turns, a nation that should have been one of the best acted as one of the worst, trading in human lives, hating in turns the Irish, the Chinese, the Mexicans, and anybody and anything that wasn't sufficiently white and Christian.

     Yet the words endured. They burned in the minds of The People, mocking them for their sins, demanding a higher standard than they practiced. In time, in shame, in fear, and eventually in hope, the darkness was driven back. The slaves were freed. Women were recognized as the equals of men. Murderous racism, once intrinsic to our society, was driven into the shadows by the growing American conscience to the point where today even in the deepest South a KKK parade looks more like the world's smallest freak show than a community affair. Where once it was assumed that the government belonged to the Protestants, the wall of separation between church and state promised by those words grew until it reached its current zenith in the principle that government shall neither aid nor persecute religions of any form. Where once gays could expect to be attacked, even killed if discovered, homophobia is now as foreign to most young people as slavery.

    And slowly...a nation repented. A heroic ideal crawling from the stinking sludge of its own birth, we went in search of that great soul promised to us by those words. We admitted our sins and begged forgiveness of our gods, our victims...and of ourselves.

    Still, we are far from perfect. The ghosts of old ignorance and hatreds do not easily release their grasp on this world. Even now, that high ideal that all people are equal has its mortal enemies in America; those who would set themselves up in judgment of others, elevating and striking down men based on nothing more than how fervently they pay homage to the bigotry of those in power.

    This, then, is the duty of a Patriot: Not to defend the leaders or laws of this nation, but to zealously defend and advance its highest ideals; the belief that the twin gods of justice and freedom must never be undermined by the desires of small and evil men. The righteous do not play games with the lives of their fellow man. If they harm others, we will stop them. If they are not harming anybody else, we have no right to interfere. The will of a popular movement must never be given priority over the rights of the unpopular; Democracy was never meant to be mob rule.

    So much progress has been made. Freedom and equality before the law will not and must not perish from the earth. And so, I will defend them, as I am a Patriot. The weak shall not be oppressed. The mighty shall not escape justice if they offend against it. The truth must be defended, just as America must be defended from those Traitors who would in malice and ignorance deprive their fellow man of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.   We will fulfil the promise of America, and claim that greatness of spirit that is our birthright.

 

(6/12/03)