The history of the United States is deeply radical, and today is the day we celebrate the most transformative document in shared history—the Declaration of Independence. The ability and desire to remake history is written in our DNA, and the Declaration of Independence is proof of that.
If you read one thing today, make it Harvey J Kay’s essay on our radical history. We must understand our radical history, now more than ever, because our future depends on it. Kay argues convincingly that it’s time we embrace our radical history because, “After more than 40 years of acting like deer caught in headlights — the headlights of history — we were moving once again. We were moving because we wanted to reclaim American public life, redeem America’s democratic purpose and promise and revive the American dream. In fact, ever swelling numbers of us said we actually wanted ‘radical action’ to address the crisis.
“And yet — as the 2016 presidential election tragically revealed — we remained sorely divided over what those actions should be. We were rejecting the narratives that had cloaked and enabled our inequalities, insecurities and injustices, but had yet to agree on the story we should tell.
“We needed a story that would help us to transcend our divisions by reminding us that we are radicals at heart and to truly “make America great again” we must enhance freedom, equality and democracy, not diminish them.
But we didn’t get it.”
I believe it’s useful to appreciate that we are limited as language users, because the converse of that notion is that we are also empowered by language. We might find it difficult to relate to the powdered-wig scribes of the Declaration of Independence, but we all feel the pull of the words contained within that document. We know that transformational change is not only possible, but inevitable when conditions press down on us to the point where we no longer live with dignity.
We have found that point.
When we no longer have the security of health and welfare for ourselves and our families, we no longer live in dignity.
When our houses, pensions and savings can be stolen from us, and none of our trusted leaders come to our aid—we no longer live in dignity.
When our children must show proof of employment to receive the High School diploma they worked their whole lives to receive, we no longer live in dignity.
This is what 2016 was about. It was an historical moment, and we, Democrats, specifically, failed miserably to rise to the occasion. More precisely, the moneyed interests among us stood in the way of freedom and transformation in exchange for a few dollars. This is not a struggle of left vs right. This is a struggle of those who have, and those who have not.
The leaders of our political machine are not so illiterate that they don’t know our history. They chose to ignore it. This is why our party, that so many of us have held dear for generations, is dying on the vine. This is not the best of all possible worlds—stop acting like it is.
The fire of radical change is upon us, whether is comes from the left or the right. It’s up to us to choose to respond. When you’re watching the fireworks tonight, hear the noise, feel the ground shake, and know that fury represents this fire within us. We will call upon that power as we fight our way back to an America we can all recognize as exceptional.
It will happen. It’s as inevitable as the words contained in the our Declaration which lives in shared history: When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
This message must be heard by all within our party. Or there won’t be party, and there might not be a country that we recognize.