Mon | Dec 4, 2023

Is United States a home of the brave?

Published:Monday | July 4, 2022 | 12:35 AM


That the United States has freedom of religion, of speech and of the press enshrined in the First Amendment of its highly revered constitution was a frequent topic during discussions with shipmates of many nationalities, religions, beliefs and cultures, throughout my long career sailing on international freighters and tankers, many of which were owned and operated by American corporations.

Today the US president is at the forefront of new plans to increase NATO’s military presence in Europe from 40,000 to 300,000 troops. Rather than concentrating on reaching a negotiated peace, NATO decides to draw a new Iron Curtain in place on the European border with Russia. That seems like a step backwards, as does the US Supreme Court’s recent decision on abortion rights. Suffice to say that those six Supreme Court justices who voted to withdraw abortion rights are all Roman Catholics, who follow centuries-old dogma, dictum and decrees of scriptural interpretations about family values delivered by celibate “holy men”. Just to confuse the matter for the rest of us mere mortals, President Joe Biden and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi are devout Catholics who strongly support abortion rights. Pelosi received communion at the Vatican last week, but she is denied that sacrament by her local priest in San Francisco because of her abortion stance, so how are we supposed to square that circle?

Another fascinating and confusing development comes from London, where, after evading US courts by hiding out in the Ecuadorian Embassy since 2012, and then being held in UK’s notorious Belmarsh Prison since 2019, Julian Assange is now facing his final chance of appeal against extradition to the US. His lawyers state that the WikiLeaks founder faces a potential sentence of 175 years in jail if charges that he endangered lives are proven in the infamous US Justice System – often called the Injustice System.

Charges stem from his publication of leaked documents pertaining to wrongdoings that were covered up by military and other government authorities during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. To add another layer of confusion, the documents were leaked to Assange by US Army Private Bradley Manning, who was court-martialled for violating the Espionage Act. As soon as he was sentenced Manning began transitioning into a woman, and served seven years of the 35 year sentence as Chelsea Manning until freed.

It all makes me wonder if what’s happening in the US has any bearing on the closing words of the “Star Spangled Banner”, that is sung with such vigour and conviction, especially on the July 4. The anthem was written by Francis Scott Key in 1814, when apparently there was a meaning to the epic closing lines: “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave”.


Parksville, BC