I really just wanted an excuse to post this video of Chet Atkins playing Stars and Stripes Forever.  Happy Fourth of July!

On this Fourth of July, the following words ring out like a clarion call to every citizen:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

We the people. Not the government on our behalf. Not some overarching authority who orders us about. But we, the people — that is where the power for change in this nation resides.  We forget that at our peril, and at times, I think we forget how powerful the lifting up of collective voices all around the nation can be in moving the public dialogue and action toward a “more perfect union.”

The Founders of this nation understood that we were not perfect at the inception of the country, but that it was the striving toward a better society, always pushing forward toward a greater good despite whatever setbacks or poor choices in the moment were made, that brought us closer to a “more perfect union.”  So long as a group of dedicated patriots were willing to stand for freedom, justice and liberty, the heart of the nation’s principles would not fade.

We must be those patriots today, for the sake of the nation.

Where we see injustice, we must stand and fight it.  Where we see a law that needs to be changed, we must stand and demand that change, and truly do the work necessary to make it happen.  Where we see a need to lift up our fellow man, we must band together to do that, whatever it may take.  Because we owe it to ourselves and to future generations to live up to the better angels of our natures — and to require that those elected to represent us do the same.

And if they do not?  We work to elect representatives who will do the work correctly.  And we will.

Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories.
- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 14, 1781

The best disinfectant for corruption of government is an informed populace — for it is in the knowing of the facts and the issues, as well as knowing the character of those who are elected to government, as John Adams once pointed out so well, that we see where a change in course must be made.  And where we hold those elected to represent our interests to the facts as we know them, and to doing the things that need doing for the greater good of us all, that is where the strength and power of a collective action from “we the people” can be most powerful. 

And where they are not doing so?  It is incumbent upon all of us to hold them to account for their failures.  We cannot sit by and wait for someone else to do the work, for it will not be done.  We must stand together — for justice, for liberty, for these truths which we hold to be self-evident, and”[t]hat to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”   The power that those who govern us hold is only such power as we the people give them — and I refuse to allow them to subvert the Constitution and the nation’s laws without speaking out when they overstep the boundaries of what is legal and right. 

What has been done, repeatedly, by the Bush Administration and the members of the Congress which continually rubber stamp the Administration’s unilateral executive power grabs, has all been done to reverse the power of this nation out of the hands of the people and into the hands of a few would-be tyrants who count on the American public to passively go along with their dictates. 

I say no.

The dignity and stability of government in all its branches, the morals of the people, and every blessing of society depend so much upon an upright and skillful administration of justice, that the judicial power ought to be distinct from both the legislative and executive, and independent upon both, that so it may be a check upon both, and both should be checks upon that.
- John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776

We do not have a king — we fought a revolution in this nation to get away from a tyrannical ruler named George.  We will not only survive the current one, but we will emerge even stronger so long as even a small group of patriots refuses to knuckle under to his perverted version of unpatriotic lawless excess. 

I stand for liberty. 

(If you haven’t read Scarecrow’s exceptional post from this morning, please do so.  And please also read Ian’s piece at The Agonist.  For a good compilation of quotes on the power of we the people, try this piece at LeftCoaster.  And just for kicks, I love this Mark Kleiman classic.  Wonderful stuff.)