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Posts Tagged ‘Abigail Adams’

On Independence Day, with Help from a Founding Mother

Monday, July 4th, 2011

“In the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could.”

Abigail Adams, letter to John Adams, then in Philadelphia, March 31, 1776

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On holidays we like to take a break from our often critical attitude about “what fresh hell” is breaking forth and to say something affirmative about the meaning of the day and why it is celebrated.

Everyone knows that the Fourth of July, which we prefer to think of as Independence Day, celebrates the new United States of America’s (declaration of) independence from Britain. This is true, and this is good.

But, today, after reading that the median pay for a CEO of the top 200 corporations in the U.S. is $10.9 million—$10.9 million for a single individual—up 23% since 2009 (how many jobs could that money create when the unemployment rate has exceeded 9% since May 2009, with at least 15 million lacking any job at all?) . . . and knowing that Congress in its wisdom recently extended the reduced (35%) rate of taxation for those millionaires (rather than let it return to 39%), a reduced taxation that continues for the 10th year to starve the national treasury of desperately needed revenues . . . and while as a related result “leaders” of a purportedly serious and fiscally responsible political party insist in budget deficit talks that revenue increases of any kind are “off the table” . . . Then we have to ask what freedom and what liberty do the ordinary people of this nation have anymore?

Are we the people free from corporate dominion? Are the press and the airwaves free? Are the 15+ million unemployed free to work and earn a living wage? Are the young graduates of our schools free to find jobs worthy of their skills and intelligence? Are workers free to negotiate with employers about their wages and working conditions? Are we citizens free to see a substantial portion of our tax dollars go to education and social safety net programs like health care assistance and Social Security? Are we free to say that the tax dollars we’re compelled to pay will not go to the wars that a majority of the population wants to end? Are women free to determine their own reproductive choices without shame or criminal prosecution? Are their doctors free to advise them simply on the basis of medical science?

Truly it seems that a different form of servitude—or maybe there’s another word for it—has taken hold of this country while a hypnotized, narcotized, War-on-Terror-ized populace is reminded constantly of “our freedoms.” Would these be the same freedoms for which American soldiers who can’t find a job anywhere else are sent to fight in tour after tour of duty in three simultaneous wars, then are brought home, if not in a box, to fend for themselves for jobs and health care?

Just askin’.

But on a more positive note, which we really do want to strike: We do sincerely tip our hats (we wear several) to salute those brave patriots of the Revolutionary War, and to the Founding Fathers who composed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States—but also to the Founding Mothers we rarely hear about, such as Abigail Smith Adams (1744–1818), aka Mrs. John Adams.

Particularly in a year that has seen, “from sea to shining sea,” systematic and relentless efforts by state and federal legislatures to strip away the rights of workers and voters, and rape-like assaults on women’s reproductive freedoms—and when a couple of women are campaigning for the presidency even though they appear not to believe in the idea of governing, or of learning—some passages from the wise Mrs. Adams are worth pondering, and practicing, enacting.

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