It is apparent to anyone who is paying attention that we are a divided nation.
To be divided means we are separated into parts. The parts are so many that it is difficult to tell where the lines are that separate us. We use the lines of separation as weapons or as tools to construct walls. Robert Frost asks poetically why good walls make good neighbors. He then declares that before he built a wall, he would ask to know what he was walling in or walling out, and “to whom he was like to give offense.”
We build the walls in our lives to give us comfort and peace without asking who we are walling in or walling out in our little kingdoms, and without asking who we will offend. I read a book in college called "The Search for Order." The premise of the book is that every civilization seeks order to survive. The problem is our disagreement as to how we obtain that order. Some think that order comes from bearing arms and Americans own more guns than any other country.
Yet, are we any closer to order?
My wife and I spent the Fourth of July in New York. We began the weekend at a play called "Oslo." It is about the Oslo Accords, which were agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization signed in 1995. Negotiations between the PLO and Israel were conducted in secret over a period of several years. There is a famous picture with President Clinton standing between Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin after the accords were signed. President Clinton tried desperately to bring peace to the Middle East, but we know that he failed. Ironically, President Clinton and his wife were in the Lincoln Center to see "Oslo" the night after we were there. I wonder what he was thinking during this remarkable play. Maybe he was thinking about walls and fences that Rabin and Arafat were seeking to tear down. Now, the prospect of peace in the Middle East is a deep shade of dark.
The day after we saw "Oslo," we went to lower Manhattan to see the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Of course, 9/11 occurred because of hatred of the United States by militant-terrorists from the Middle East. We were standing in places where thousands died and the hatred that fueled those evil acts resulted in more walls being built which separated us even more. In the aftermath of 9/11, we came together as a nation for a short time as we mourned for all of those who suffered from the mass murder of 3,000 Americans. Yet we returned to our wall building shortly thereafter and it continues more vigorously today than ever.
On Monday, we saw another play, this time a musical called "Come From Away." I entered the theater without expectation. It is an amazing story of how the people of Gander, Newfoundland, came together to care for approximately 7,000 people who were in airplanes when the three planes struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and another crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.
Gander is a town of about 10,000 people. It lies in the northeastern tip of North America and has long served as a refueling stop for trans-Atlantic flights. On 9/11, 240 flights were rerouted to Canada when American airspace was closed after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Thirty-nine of those flights and 6,579 passengers, pilots and flight attendants ended up in Gander. The townspeople of Gander and surrounding areas provided lodging and food for these wary travelers for several days. “Come From Away” is based on interviews of locals and travelers involved in that amazing experience. The play tells the story from the perspective of 12 townspeople from Gander and 12 people from the planes, all played by the same actors. There were no fences being built in Gander in the aftermath of 9/11.
We finished our weekend on a cruise to watch fireworks beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. We began our cruise on the southern tip of Brooklyn and passed the Statute of Liberty as the sun was setting into the clouds. A perfect ending to our trip and one for the memory book. The 30-minute fireworks display was anti-climactic.
After we returned to port, I took a moment to read the Declaration of Independence. I invite you to spend some time reading it and think about the signers who were leading us to freedom from tyranny. The premise of the Declaration is that in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, we have the right to "dissolve the political bands" which have connected us to a "separate and equal station" if we "declare the causes" which impel us to the separation.
“Prudence will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes unless a long train of abuses and usurpations leads us to the point where it is our right and duty to throw off such government.”
The authors of the Declaration recounted the history of repeated injuries and usurpations, which led to "absolute tyranny." Among the offenses, King George "refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good." He "endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither." He "made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries." He "deprived us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury.”
I am not suggesting that it is time for us to dissolve the political bands that connect us. Yet, it is important to remember that tyranny led us to create a new order as our forefathers sought life, liberty and happiness. Whenever “any government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and to institute new government,” “as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”
-- Bob Buckley is an attorney in Independence, www.wagblaw.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org