Here is a country whose still-lingering greatness was born on the backs of workers who unionized against the will and wishes of the great powers of capitalism. Yet here also is a country where the vital lessons of that effort have been largely disparaged and forgotten, because the truth of those lessons still discomforts those great powers. This week, the progeny of those early organizers used the democratic process to make progress for themselves and their fellow members, and even in defeat were magnificent.
Here is a country that makes men of such courage that they volunteer to die thousands of miles from home, who scramble to save each other when the bullets are flying, and can still smile about it. Yet here also is a country that takes men of this caliber and throws them - not once, not twice, not three but four times - into a meat-grinder based on lies and the desire for profit and power. If the man I met hadn't been shot, like as not he'd either still be in Afghanistan, or would be gearing up for a fifth trip to the other side of the world.
Happy birthday, you ridiculous nation. You are a great and terrible place, and you must do better. Not just because you have to, which you do, but because you can. You have the necessary pieces, and you have the potential. I know, because I saw it all week long on my sidewalk.
William Rivers Pitt, Truthout [excerpt]