I called a friend of mine yesterday, a naturalized American born and raised in the Soviet Union. An unusual person, in every respect, and her husband too, vo vsekh otnosheniyakh. I had found her at home only because she had returned briefly, before returning to the place she was staying at by the sea, y lukomor’ya, to find her copy of the Declaration of Independence. She would be returning with it, she said, to the same place from the tiny second floor balcony of which she would, as on Independence Days past, read out the Declaration of Independence, “to the wildly cheering crowds below.”
Now ask yourself if you can imagine a Buddhist from Vietnam, now an American citizen, doing the same. You can. And ask yourself if you can imagine someone raised as a Hindu, now an American citizen, doing the same. You can. And ask yourself if you can imagine all kinds of people — Francis Bok from the Sudan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali from Somalia (next year, in Washington), Ali Sina from Iran, Ibn Warraq from Pakistan, Wafa Sultan from Jordan, all doing the same thing, or at least joining in. And you can.
And now try to do the following. Try to imagine a member of CAIR, or anyone who claims not only to be a Muslim (and some do it out of habit, out of filial piety, out of fear of social ostracism or worse, even though they are nothing more than “Muslim-for-identification-purposes-only” Muslims), but to believe in what Muslims are taught to believe. For they are taught to believe that the source of legitimacy of any government lies not in the people, which is what the Declaration of Independence declares, but in the will or whim of Allah. And that will is expressed in the Qur’an, and through that most important figure, Muhammad, in the Hadith. And they are taught that men are to be slaves of Allah, not free men. And they are taught that the collective of Believers, the umma al-islamiyya, is what matters, and to which Muslims must owe their sole loyalty, and certainly not to an Infidel nation-state.
When not fussily moving the coals around at a barbecue, and wondering if you correctly counted the paper plates ahead of time, and whether or not a thunderstorm will cut short the fireworks tonight, or make getting home from them a drenching prospect, consider the Founders, and their mental makeup, and that of all the others who created the United States from the earliest days, to the present. And then consider the cloud of knowing, in the minds of the unwary and ignorant, the too-ungrateful or too-uncomprehending recipients of that legacy, and how that cloud of unknowing threatens storms that will put out not only fireworks, but what those fireworks are intended to celebrate. Food, and not merely Fourth-of-July barbecue food, for thought.
But right now let’s go on over, with the ghosts of Peter Zenger and Learned Hand and Alexander Meiklejohn and Alexander Bickel and for that matter, Leo Rosten (author of a book about immigrants learning English at a night school), and stand imaginatively looking up at Tatiana on that balcony, as she reads with feeling the Declaration of Independence, and you are free to join those “wildly cheering crowds” in their cheers and their tears and their heartfelt aplodismenty.