On Tuesday night, as if Thomas Jefferson had been waiting to exhale for 235 years, we seem to have won a debate that would give him the go-ahead. The question posed was: Is the US Declaration of Independence illegal?
In the winning argument, American lawyers concluded:
Under basic principles of “Natural Law”, government can only be by the consent of the people and there comes a point when allegiance is no longer required in face of tyranny.
The legality of the Declaration and its validity is proven by subsequent independence movements which have been enforced by world opinion as right and just, based on the fundamental principles of equality and self-determination now reflected in the UN Charter.
For this century, though, a better question might be: How is independence declared at all, and especially in a way that does not involve violence?
Resulting from a deportation conflict with the U.S. government in 1972, John Lennon and Yoko Ono tried it this way:
Looking back at their agenda and the motive behind the deportation effort, uncomfortable thoughts of negligence and procrastination came to mind and I wondered if anything has changed at all.
Injustices around the world prompted Lennon to use “his popularity for fund raisers, voter-registration drives, and anti-war rallies and concerts. These activities were planned to take place in many of the presidential primary states in 1972, and this deeply troubled Richard Nixon and the Republican Party. Consequently, many Republicans feared that Lennon, through these motivated activities, would jump-start the anti-war movement, resulting in the majority of young Americans voting against Nixon in the upcoming election.
Through the Freedom of Information Act, it was revealed that on February 4, 1972, Senator Strom Thurmond wrote a memo, classified as secret, citing Lennon as a danger to the Presidents’ 1972 reelection campaign. So what could the Republicans do to prevent this? Easy they thought – just revoke Lennon’s visa. Thurmond said further that “if Lennon’s visa is terminated, it would be a strategy counter-measure.” He further advised that “caution must be taken with regard to the possible alienation of the so-called 18-year-old-vote if Lennon is expelled from the country.”
[…] Was John Lennon successfully deported – no. However, in 1975, the chief counsel of the INS resigned, and after doing so, publicly stated that the United States government, i.e., the Republican Party, spent millions of tax dollars, and conducted a more vehement attempt to deport John Lennon than it did in trying to throw out Nazi war criminals. It should be noted too, that all activities involving Lennon, or his intended activities, were protected under the First Amendment, which extends this protection to both citizens and non-citizens alike. John Lennon broke no laws in trying to fight for the many injustices he believed in. ~by John T. Marck, I Am The Beatles, John Lennon the Immigrant
So … in spite of taxpayer-funded dirty tricks, they were actually successful – a comparatively irrelevant gain, though, ending in the tragic loss of a dearly precious life. But can we conclude that John Lennon’s deportation experience and the declaration of Nutopian independence demonstrate that standing symbolically and nonviolently against injustice, corruption, secrecy and abuses of law enforcement is a noble endeavor worthy of us all? I believe so. And I think we’re headed in the right direction.
But what about entire nations declaring independence? According to one American historian:
The source of the powers of congress is to be sought solely in the acquiescence of the people, without which every congressional resolution, with or without the benediction of popular conventions or state legislatures, would have been a mere brutum fulmen; and, as the congress unquestionably exercised national powers, operating over the whole country, the conclusion is inevitable that the will of the whole people is the source of national government in the United States, even from its first imperfect appearance in the second continental congress.. Cyclopædia of Political Science. New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co., 1899.
In theory, then and now, the people rule collectively – at least in America. As surely as the American lawyers argued Tuesday night, “Under basic principles of “Natural Law”, government can only be by the consent of the people….” We either legitimate our congress, our popular government, or their decisions are mere inert thunder.
That’s a nice theory, but unfortunately somewhere along the line, and especially with corporate personhood, the rule of the people was given over to the rule of the money, and inert thunder is accepted as the law of the land.
Looking to the Tibetan people’s struggle for independence (a people who have positively moved in the direction of non-violence), returning to an independent sovereign state has proven to be a futile effort in the “principles of equality and self-determination” that validate a Declaration of Independence – this also argued by our lawyers.
“China’s policy of occupation and oppression has resulted in no more or less than the destruction of Tibet’s national independence, culture and religion, environment and the universal human rights of its people. But having no representation in the United Nations, the world largely stood by and allowed China’s occupation and destruction to happen.” Issues facing Tibet* today describes the human rights and environmental atrocities that afflict a nation of once proud and self-determining people – and frankly, some of it is way too close to home.
And so, our lawyers argued for validity on the basis of “subsequent independence movements which have been enforced by world opinion as right and just”, and are “now reflected in the UN Charter”, but that was more or less a convenient and exclusive argument reserved for the elite nations backed by a document that is neither abided by nor enforced by our own government. It was certainly not a point inclusive of what is “right or just” for the people of Tibet.
When people’s rights, values and money are consumed by states and corruption, of course the pattern for violence is more concentrated in recovery efforts well after the fact than in efforts to regulate and prevent a corrupt government’s economic and legislative overreach.
Of the many examples of violent recovery efforts from such overreach, the people of Southern Sudan have been plagued with civil war on and off since 1955. Two million are dead and four million have been displaced since 1983, resulting overall in the mass destruction of a lovely people and culture. Whether or not nonviolence will last in a nation fraught with war for generations of citizens is questionable, as also exemplified in areas like Israel and Palestine. Attrition ensures that the people themselves have no standard for living in peace. Chronically bad situations during the prolonged catastrophe of war with its societal disorganization, malnutrition and disease, crime and overwhelming fear, often result in a people characterized as living almost for safety alone. The natural rhythm and balance afforded a life in peace and safety is unrealized, and even after the danger subsides, our human preference for the familiar tends to render the people of those war-torn nations as unsafe children in their desire for safety, and in that way they remain vulnerable, abused children of violence and war.
On the other hand, and more recently, a better result will come for the people of Iceland, who have been standing up together to face the economic and social injustices brought on by their corrupt state. Being progressive, they’ve taken “the bull by the horns”, and their noble and nonviolent correction is ending that economic injustice and the ruining debt imposed on the nation’s people in a way that will serve and protect generations to follow. And the Icelandic people have written a new constitution, independent of their parent country, Denmark.
When social and economic injustice come to the people of a nation and they do not stand together and act to correct it, if inequality results in abuses and the exploitation of social weaknesses, if the flow of information is controlled, if the validity of elections is questionable, if the allegiance of elected officials can be purchased, … and all while knowing that violence and war can be the default result of the people’s negligence and procrastination in facing those abuses, then generations to come, tomorrow’s children and theirs, are not being given a fair opportunity to live in peace … whether or not a congress or a declaration of independence is legal or approved by the oppressors.