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Saturday, July 6, 2013

This Independence Day, Thank a Protester

This Independence Day, Thank a Protester

By Amy Goodman
Common Dreams
July 6, 2013

More than 160 years ago, the greatest abolitionist in U.S. history,
the escaped slave Frederick Douglass, addressed the Rochester
Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society.

Douglass asked those gathered, “What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?”

His words bear repeating this Independence Day, as the United States
asserts unprecedented authority to wage war globally, to spy on
everyone, everywhere.

Independence Day should serve not as a blind celebration of the
government, but as a moment to reflect on the central place in
our history of grass-roots democracy movements, which have
preserved and expanded the rights proclaimed in the opening
lines of the Declaration of Independence:

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Douglass answered his question about the Fourth of July, to those
gathered abolitionists:

“To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of
rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants,
brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow
mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings,
with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere
bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to
cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There
is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and
bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very
hour.”

Douglass not only denounced the hypocrisy of slavery in a democracy,
but worked diligently to build the abolitionist movement.

He fought for women’s suffrage as well. These were movements that
have shaped the United States.

The civil-rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s set a permanent
example of what can be achieved by grass-roots action, even in the
face of systemic, violent repression.

Today, movements continue to shape our society.

The trial of George Zimmerman, accused of murdering Trayvon
Martin, would not be happening now in Florida were it not for a
mass movement.

Sparked by the seeming official indifference to the shooting death
of yet another young, African-American male, nationwide protests
erupted, leading to the appointment of a special prosecutor.

A month and a half after Martin was killed, Zimmerman was
charged with second-degree murder.

Gay men and lesbians have seen sweeping changes in their legal
rights, as same-sex marriage becomes legal in state after state,
the U.S. military has dropped its official discrimination against
homosexuality, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act was
recently judged unconstitutional.

Again, undergirding this progress are the decades of movement-
building and grass-roots organizing.

In Egypt, the revolution dubbed the Arab Spring continues, with
mass protests forcing out President Mohamed Morsi. Where this
goes now, with the military in power, is yet to be determined.

As my “Democracy Now!” colleague, Sharif Abdel Kouddous,
tweeted from the streets of Cairo on the night of the military
coup, “After two and a half years, Egypt just went back to
square one in its post-Mubarak transition.”

The United States has been for well over two centuries a beacon
for those around the world suffering under tyranny. But the U.S.
also has been the prime global opponent of grass-roots democratic
movements.

Amazingly, South African President Nelson Mandela and the African
National Congress were not taken off the U.S. terrorist watch list
until 2008.

When the people of Chile elected Salvador Allende, the U.S. backed
a coup against him on Sept. 11, 1973, ushering in the dictatorship
of Augusto Pinochet, who murdered thousands of his own citizens,
crushing dissent.

Sadly, drone strikes and the U.S.-run prison at Guantanamo are
not historical references; they are current crimes committed by
our own government.

Now, National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden,
as far as we know, is stranded in the Moscow airport, his U.S
passport canceled.

He has admitted to revealing a vast, global surveillance regime
that has outraged citizens and governments the world over.

He joins in his plight imprisoned whistle-blower Bradley Manning,
who faces life in prison, being court-martialed now for leaking
the largest trove of classified documents in U.S. history.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has now spent more than a
year cooped up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

These three are central to the exposure of some of the most
undemocratic practices of the U.S. government.

More than 100 protests are planned across the U.S. this July
Fourth weekend, in opposition to the NSA’s surveillance programs.

These protests are part of the continuum of pro-democracy
struggles around the world.

In closing his Rochester, N.Y., speech, Douglass sounded an
optimistic note, saying, “Notwithstanding the dark picture
I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do
not despair of this country.”

Grass-roots justice movements are the hope, the beacon, the force
that will save this country.



Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international
TV/radio news hour airing on 1,100 stations in North America.

She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the
“Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish
Parliament in December

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/07/04-1

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