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Published in the 16-31 July 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

The Debt of Independence
By Shakeel Syed 

The United States of America tends to glorify, simplify and sanitize more than two and a quarter centuries of its horrid past. The Declaration of Independence states "all men are created equal," but that was not the case in 1776. Two hundred twenty eight years later, the Declaration still could not home itself in the hearts of all Americans. The 228th year of freedom must see beyond the mundane rituals of afternoon barbecues and evening fireworks. 

The lonely Native American female warrior as the statue of freedom atop the Capitol Dome was casted in bronze by a Foundry that housed enslaved labor. Slaves who were paid only in the coins of pain in fact built the house that claims to now home the lady liberty. 

Prevalent times offer us the rhetoric of "No Child Left behind" but more children are currently suffering from lethal diseases, grinding poverty, poor nutrition than ever before. 

City leaders endlessly debate to allocate $100,000 for building a classroom but they do not even blink to approve $200,000 for a mile of new sewer line! 

Leaders of the country are proud to vote and approve a $400 billion Department of Defense budget while they are not ashamed to allocate a mere $70 billion to the Department of Education.
The overseer of the justice (a.k.a. Attorney General), says Walter Cronkite, is "the Torquemada of American law. Tomas de Torquemada was the 15th century Dominican friar who became the grand inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. He was largely responsible for its methods, including torture and the burning of heretics - Muslims in particular."1 

The modern Tomas de Torquemada is yet to be found with a bloody axe in his hand but he does own a blood stained pen that has "legalized" indefinite detentions of the very citizens that he was sworn to protect.

While the "free" America continues to insist for a safer world for herself, at any cost, it fails to protect her very own. The "free" media had a field day when some, perhaps jobless few, mugged the rich beholder of justice, the Honorable Supreme Court Justice David Souter.2 Conversely, the same "free" media in camaraderie with Mickey Mouse and White House was mostly quiet when Fahrenheit 9/11 was much too much of a painful reality for the America. 

The indefinite detentions of innocent, the desperate youth sniffing around for a job, and the (mostly) enslaved press 3 perhaps best represents a modern free America that shamelessly deprives freedom to any one who dares to be free. 

The growing socio-economic divide and disparity is highlighted in a recent study, that "the top 1 percent of (American) households owned 39.1% of the nation's household wealth. To put this in perspective, the top 1 percent of households had more wealth in 1997 than all of the households in the bottom 95 percent combined."4 

The independent America has become more debt-dependent than ever before, with a total debt of $37 trillion 5, or $128,560 per man, woman and child. The followers do not seem to share the ideals of their founding father Thomas Jefferson who said, "I place economy among the first and most important virtues, and debt as the greatest of dangers to be feared." 

As we continue our worrisome journey of life we must set afoot a new and whole of ourselves. We cannot simply ignore the immeasurable human pain and poverty all around and amidst us in the land of abundance.

The true concept of independence is simple, "to free oneself from the vices and to inculcate virtues." Collectively, a society, must strive to establish good and forbid evil. Pursuing independence from the shackles of evil is a mandate and not a choice. Gaining independence from the yoke of oppression in this world is not only necessary but also imperative. The true independence lies in absolute servitude to the One Creator and freedom from the created.

It is time that we reflect rather soberly in our individual and institutional triumphs. We now seem to be fighting for a penny when a fortune is owed as our debt of independence to those who were enslaved and are now camped in an exit less home, called America.

Shakeel Syed is a freelance writer on socio-political issues and lives in Culver City, CA.


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