Today, we again mark the anniversary of The Declaration of Independence, that traitorous 1776 statement which lead to the foundation of the United States of America. Almost a quarter of a millennium ago, those brash colonials shed foreign rule with their territorial union wrought as a secular republic—a most unusual endeavor in the annals of human history. As a philosophy of individualism and self-determination, Satanism’s fundamental principles endorse “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” which those revolutionaries promised as fundamental “rights” that should be ensconced in their new republic—a governmental system meant to serve all participating in that society. Yet, from that auspicious conceptual beginning, not all sovereign consciousnesses in the newly-crafted nation were enjoying the benefits of that document’s unique pledge. In particular, women and people of color were excluded. Embracing the full range of historical facts, rather than holding to some propagandistic portrait—whether positive or negative—is crucial for making informed evaluations of any situation. And the history of this country, both before and after its beginning, is a wide-ranging tapestry including heroism and horrors, wherein humans behave as poorly as one generally expects. But, a brave and intelligent few set a course that held much promise for an evolving system whose ideals might lead to greater liberties and widespread individual autonomy—eventually, and after some terrific struggles. And that striving continues today, as well as homegrown opposition to it.
It is worth noting that the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli states that “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” This inherent secularism rejected the age-old practice of governments being dominated by an established religion, which would then force widespread obeisance to its theism-based morals and doctrines. Yet, as I’ve warned repeatedly over the passing years, the theists never cease their efforts to have their repressive perspectives legislated. Quite recently, they have made significant headway towards establishing their doctrines as law. They have created a false “history” which claims that the United States had a “golden age” in the past, when Christianity reigned as the established religion. History clearly proves this to be untrue, but Christian Dominionists for several decades have created propagandist literature pushing this heinous lie. This fairytale is believed by a growing number of their followers, a number of whom are part of our body of elected representatives. A dangerous thing with democratic rule—the ignorant and hateful can elect people who reflect their irrational beliefs, people who do not support and defend our Constitution, and, sadly, there is no check nor balance for that.
With the negation of Roe v. Wade, as well as growing instances of legislation being drafted and passed in several states which hamper ease of voting for minority groups or restrict or abrogate liberties particularly for the LGBTQ+ American citizens, it seems that Christians are in the midst of a sort of “Battle of the Bulge“—a strong, last-ditch push against what had been rising trends of secularism and diversity. Their intention is the enslaving of American society within the confining morality enshrined in their belief system. We secularists are thus challenged to master and preserve the mechanisms which exist, wisely built-in to our Constitution, to maintain that rare American treasure—the separation of Church and State. But, right now, it is imperative that we be aware that there are states which are rushing to embrace that limiting societal perspective that had been viewed, up until quite recently, as just a relic of archaic ignorance.
Our nation is currently hyper-polarized, a situation eagerly stoked by this theistic fantasist mind-set which may yet tear asunder the progressive union which had been formed in 1776. Will there be a new secular strength rising to combat this swollen tide of irrationality and theocratic madness? Or will that American promise of individualism be shown to be just an ephemeral pipe dream? In this time of deep national divide, today is a worthy occasion for reflection upon what the future might hold for the principles embodied in the essential nature of the United States of America, and whether in the coming years those might be carefully cultivated…or obliterated.
Aaron Copland (November 14, 1900 – December 2, 1990) was a composer who established a uniquely American sound in his works, particularly those written in what he called his “vernacular” style in the 1930s-40s. Rodeo is a ballet score for choreographer Agnes de Mille. Premiered in 1942, its deft use of American folk tunes, orchestrated and developed with brilliance and sensitivity, made it an iconic work. Its final energetic movement, “Hoe Down,” has been extracted for many purposes—at one point even to advertise and promote consuming “Beef—it’s what’s for dinner.” This linked performance of the final dance is conducted by the composer himself. The entire work is exquisite and memorable and it has influenced many film composers when they score films about the American West. An example: John Williams’ Overture derived from his score to The Cowboys (1972) shows a masterful wielding of Copland’s style.
Here is a performance of Rodeo by Zubin Mehta and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra from 2011. This is the version with four movements that is slightly abridged from the complete ballet score. While the boisterous opening “Buckeroo Holiday” and the rousing finale “Hoe Down” tend to be best known, I find the third movement “Saturday Night Waltz” to be deeply moving in a quiet, introspective way. Copland was presented with a selection of American folk tunes by de Mille, and he rose to that challenge in making them his own—sheer genius. If you take the time to listen to all four movements, I’m sure you’ll know the finale, but I expect you’ll enjoy the other three as well. Here’s to Aaron Copland—a gay, Jewish intellectual composer from Brooklyn, who studied in France with Nadia Boulanger. His life and works are quintessential exemplars of a mythic America, a land worth preserving as a bastion of diversity and inclusion that heartily embraces and celebrates brilliance from whomever might possess it.