America: Be True to What You Said on Paper

In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered an impassioned speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Though his words that August day are mostly remembered for his dream of racial harmony, the real meat of the the matter was his insistence that the Declaration of Independence as a promissory note, and that the United States government had yet to make good on its promise to pay. 

By April 3, 1968, one day before Dr. King was felled by an assassin's bullet, the soaring, poetic words that put the "I Have a Dream" speech atop the list of the greatest pieces of oration in American history had given way to a simple declaration: "All we say to America is be true to what you said on paper..."

This day, even as we commemorate his birth, we must surely recognize that America has been ingenious in repackaging inequality and sidestepping the debt it placed on its own head in its founding documents. So I say to America, in the spirit of Dr. King, be true to what you said on paper.

You said that "a more perfect union" would be one where justice is established, domestic tranquility is assured, common defense is provided, the general welfare is promoted, and the blessings of liberty are assured. Be true to that.

Establish justice. Mete out punishment on the takers of billions with the same firm hand used on the takers of hundreds or even tens. We're still waiting to see the perpetrators of the mortgage scandal that took down the nation's economy brought to justice. At this point, I'd be happy to see them serve as much time as someone caught with a bag of marijuana outside of Colorado.

Be true to what you said on paper.

Ensure domestic tranquility. Not a police state where every conversation is monitored in the name of homeland security and dissent is increasingly viewed as a four-letter word. Stop militarizing the police, and turning a blind eye as assault, rape, and murder by those sworn to serve and protect go unpunished.

Be true to what you said on paper.

Promote the general welfare. How about a tax structure that can stand erect because it isn't adulterated by loopholes, back doors, and secret passages that allow those who can most afford to pay get away with paying the least? How about a new social contract wherein the very same people who take every opportunity to hack away at the safety net and demonize those who have the misfortune to need its programs can't spitefully use it as a supplemental reserve of funds for feeding and housing workers that they refuse to pay a living wage? (This side eye is for you, McDonald's, Wal-Mart, Hardee's and every other business that pays millions in executive bonuses and shareholder dividends while your front line employees would need raises in order to get to the point of being broke.)

Come on, America. Be true to what you said on paper.

Provide for the common defense. I know that Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, and the boys were referring to the military. But you've got that on lock, America. Really. In the global schoolyard, you're the ultimate taker of lunch money. And there's no monitor to send you to detention. So how about focusing some of that might on defending me? No, I'm not joking. I (and quite a few other people) could use some defense against the people who continue to criminalize driving/walking/eating/sleeping/learning/ringing doorbells/fixing a car while black. Haven't heard about that, America? You need some black friends. They would keep you posted on this sort of stuff. And if it's not too much of an imposition, could you please demand that the "states rights" states knock it off with their brazen attempts to rob the old, the young, the black, the Latino, and the poor of the right to vote? They're making you look bad. Huh? What was that? Oh yeah, I forgot. They got the signal that it was okay after the Supreme Court flipped the switch on a key section of the Voting Rights Act to the OFF position. Damn. 

Work on being true to those and we'll talk later about the blessings of liberty. Get back at me, America. Your account is more than 229 years past due. Perhaps we can work out some sort of payment arrangement.



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