Exploring Human Potential

We must be “Declaration of Independence Walking.”

Posted on | November 24, 2019 | 3 Comments


Mike Magee

In the shadow of last week’s Presidential Impeachment hearings, I have been searching for a silver lining. I tell myself it is helpful our Democracy is being stress tested and our Constitutional weaknesses revealed so that we might take corrective actions in the future. I recognize that this is not Trump’s fault alone but our’s as well, having supported a culture rich in celebrity idolatry, and one tolerant of unsustainable levels of inequity. And I acknowledge we live in a land of unbridled capitalism where solidarity and good government are diminished in equal measure.

So I was heartened to see our public servants, several of whom were first generation immigrants, display their competence, professionalism and courage in support of these United States. I want to believe that they, rather than their inquisitors, represent us. I want to believe that any fair-minded viewers could see our taxpayer money well invested in these remarkable women and men, and that we now better understand the art of diplomacy when contrasted with the bare knuckle hooliganism of Guiliani and his band of thugs.

My search for goodness led me back to 2010 and the Annual ADAP Convention at the Georgetown Westin Hotel. ADAP is a non-profit committed to making HIV/AIDS drugs affordable and accessible to all in need. I was honored and pleased to receive the invitation to deliver their keynote address that year from Executive Director, Brandon Macsata, who had been responsible for my original invite nine years earlier. That invite, in turn, was the result of Brandon hearing me address John Kemp’s Disability group the prior year. “Goodness spreads, you see.”, I told myself.

Brandon asked that I reflect on the role of “advanced professionalism” and “enlightened leadership”. To prepare, I relied heavily on a book my son, Michael, had published with the University of Alabama Press in 2004, titled, “Emancipating Pragmatism: emerson, jazz, and experimental writing”. The book derived from his PhD dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania, and extensively delved into the writings of both Ralph Waldo Ellison, author of “The Invisible Man”, and his namesake, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

So what did my son Michael say in his book that was so compelling that I turned to it that day, and return to it today, in the shadow of Trump-led Republican denials?

Page 3: Quoting Emerson, “To interpret Christ, it needs a Christ…to make good the cause of freedom against slavery you must be…Declaration of Independence walking.”

Page 7: On Fake News”, “Ultimately, Emerson came to believe that ‘America’ itself was a kind of text being read, its meaning a matter of collective decision. It followed that one’s linguistic theory, one’s view of how words generate meanings, had potentially large-scale social ramifications. In suggesting that words were ‘million-faced’, Emerson came to realize, he was suggesting that social possibility was remakeable.”

Page 18: On Change and Diversity, “Emerson writes…’the philosophy we want is one of fluxions and mobility’”.

Page 19: On the American Culture and Diversity, “‘Out of the democratic principles set down on paper in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights’, Ellison says, Americans ‘were improvising themselves into a nation, scraping together a conscious culture out of various dialects, idioms, lingos, and methodologies of America’s diverse peoples and regions’”.

Page 24: On the Emerson View of the Evolution of American Language and Culture, “We forget, conveniently sometimes, that the language we speak is not English, although it is based on English. We forget that our language is such a flexible instrument because it has had so many dissonances thrown into it ….from Africa, from Mexico, from Spain, from God knows, everywhere.”

Page 25 and 28: On Creating Our History, “The jazz musician—who, Ellison says, always plays both ‘within and against the group’ — constantly reflects and redefines the ensemble in which he plays. Likewise the ensemble reflects and redefines the larger community to which it belongs….that ‘anticipatory arena where actuality and possibility, past and present, are allowed to collaborate on a history of the future.’”

This has been a momentous week. We have made progress. We are not static, not trapped, not powerless or fixed in place. But there is much left to be done. This should neither surprise nor discourage. On the final page of Michael’s book, he writes, “An emancipated pragmatism happens whenever and wherever a creative mind or community of creative minds engages in democratic symbolic action.”

Democratic – Symbolic – Action. These are more than words. They are a culture of values. Our future is being written now. VOTE.


3 Responses to “We must be “Declaration of Independence Walking.””

  1. chuck Fahey
    November 25th, 2019 @ 10:12 am

    thanks again Mike.

  2. Janice Mancuso
    November 25th, 2019 @ 5:02 pm

    Another brilliant piece! You gave words to many of the fuzzy thoughts I had after viewing gavel-to-gavel coverage of the impeachment inquiry hearings and witnessing pure courage.

    “We are not static, not trapped, not powerless or fixed in place. But there is much left to be done. This should neither surprise nor discourage.” These three sentences are the boost and inspiration I needed to hear today. Thank you…

    PS I purchased your son’s book in 2016 after you previously mentioned it. I just pulled it from my shelf. I’m especially eager to read it now, so it will be traveling with me to Colorado for Thanksgiving!

  3. Mike Magee
    December 5th, 2019 @ 1:50 pm

    Thanks, Janice, for this and more! Best, Mike

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