Rethinking America's Fourth of July as Outdependence Day

About this time every year I grow a bit philosophical, and melancholic, as we celebrate what this country should be… but isn’t. Last year, my written words called for a second American revolution, and the year before I underlined the belated realization that the US is not us (the people). Perhaps in my idealism, I showed more than a touch of naïveté.

This year, as I take stock of where the United States is, a new administration in power, and vast economic and social problems pressing the country, I cannot help but feel disconsolate at the state of the nation. Amid early stages of an economic depression that neither Wall Street nor the government is willing to acknowledge publicly, or lasting military conflict in the Middle East, the motto carried by the American eagle – e pluribus unum – appears to me as a two-centuries-old dictum that represents a cruel hoax.

“Out of many, one” was a great slogan, an appropriate theme of a seal’s imagery, which reflected a new world; a new nation ready to pragmatically define how a government by the people should be… the meaning of true democracy. A great start for 1776, one that most Americans followed until two generations ago, as the stark realities of our social, economic and political conditions became evident, in need of little or no explanation.

Unity for the good of the country no longer has the patriotic ring that it once had, as the overwhelmingly powerful few use it to yoke the overwhelmingly powerless many. Yet, politicians, government and those holding the reins of wealth and power are quick to resort to a call for unity with the sole intention of maintaining a truly undemocratic status quo. A most difficult situation to overcome when the few – and powerful – aren’t just an ubiquitous elite barely representing 1 percent amongst us, but squires to this elite by the legion that could add up to as many as 10-15 percent of the population. Still few… but a powerful, ruling few!

And that represents the divided America, not down the middle (in population) as we are led to believe, but an America of power and influence where 40 million people rule the lives of the other 280 million (when undocumented immigrants are included). The ruling of the many by the few via an unrepresentative government, masked via elections, bought for the most part with money provided by the tentacles of predatory capitalism… yes, the lobbies representing corporate and foreign interests, and not the needs or the desires of the American people.

And if that happens to be the reality of the nation in 2009, more than celebrating the nation’s independence, we should be mourning it instead… for the course the country took long ago has in fact replaced Independence Day with Outdependence Day.

Outdependence of the United States to foreign nations created by annual international trade deficits every year since 1976; and which last year amounted to over $695 billion; that, added to a projected budget deficit of $407 billion, put the United States in arrears to the tune of 8 percent of the US gross domestic product; or, in terms we may be able to understand, it potentially took away a star from our flag (2 percent of US resources).

Outdependence of the United States to foreign petroleum-producing nations created by a gluttonous demand for energy which has brought about the risk of present or future unduly influence by those nations in how the US conducts foreign relations.

Outdependence of the United States to “adopted” sister nations that keeps this country tied down to unchangeable international commitments, no matter how illegitimate… as viewed by the rest of the world, and which de facto help write and enforce the nation’s foreign policy. The most blatant example is the US treatment of “does-no-wrong” Israel in its decades-long conflict with its Arab neighbors… now extending past the Near and Middle East to other parts of Southwest Asia.

Outdependence of the United States to neighboring nations to meet its citizens’ demand for illicit drugs; suppliers in the hemisphere born out of such demand, and America’s drug policies of criminalization and enforcement. These are nations that are being destabilized because of such US drug demand at a cost to them several-fold of the resources provided to them by America and its war on drugs. Mexico, Colombia and smaller Central American and Caribbean nations are now absorbing much of that cost.

On this Fourth of July of picnics and fireworks, perhaps we should look introspectively and think how we can reverse course and revisit the Declaration of Independence and live by the motto of “E Pluribus Unum” once more.