July 8, 2002

From a king to a prince:
Time to re-establish government by the people

John Sugg, of creativeloafing.com has laid down a revised version of the Declaration of Independence, which aims its fury not at King George of England, but at Prince George W of the U.S.

Even a cursory look at the actual complaints of the revolutionaries who founded the American republic will show clearly that the taxation issues that led to the American Revolution were piddling compared to the outrages of the Bush regime.

In 1849, Henry David Thoreau wrote "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience" in protest of two things: slavery and the Mexican War, which was the forerunner of the now-familiar American attempts to overthrow foreign governments for favored business interests.

Slavery, as it existed in 1849, has ceased to be. But today we have a plutocracy in which the richest 1% of the population possesses more wealth than the lower 95%, and dollars have superseded votes as the unit of power in government. The corrupt form of government that now exists certainly does not serve the majority and has perverted beyond recognition the principles on which the country was founded. But it is in the issue of foreign conquest that we have an exact parallel with the issues that inspired "Civil Disobedience."

Thoreau's description of the Mexican War as "the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standard government as their tool," would apply to any number of U.S. invasions of modern times.

Thoreau's words from a century and a half ago would be ten times more justified today: "All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable. But almost all say that such is not the case now. But such was the case, they think, in the Revolution of '75. If one were to tell me that this was a bad government because it taxed certain foriegn commodities brought to its ports, it is most probable that I should not make an ado about it, for I can do without them. All machines have their friction; and possibly this does enough good to counterbalance the evil. At any rate, it is a great evil to make a stir about it. But when the friction comes to have its machine, and oppression and robbery are organized, I say, let us not have such a machine any longer. In other words, when a sixth of the population of a nation which has undertaken to be the refuge of liberty are slaves and a whole country is unjustly overrun and conquered by a foreign army and subjected to military law, I think that is not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize. What makes this duty the more urgent is the fact that the country so overrun is not our own, but ours is the invading army."

Thoreau's position would be even more justified today: "How does it become a man to behave toward this American government today?" he asked. "I answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it." -- By David Cogswell

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