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Rick’s clientele

Refugees in Rick’s Café Americain are noted for having been driven from their fascist homelands because of their minds. Because they’re independent thinkers who can’t be intimidated into mindless conformance, into group-think. Can’t be parted from their individuality, their sovereign rights as citizens to use their judgment to call out injustices and other wrongs that inflict suffering. That offend shared responsibility to the community, to everyone’s future.

They flee oppression with their different languages, dress, and customs, because they have a conscience. Because they refuse to sacrifice their conscience, their values, their individual worth, to the demands of an authority that tolerates nothing but obedience. That achieves conformance by crushing those who refuse to surrender their minds, their free will, their autonomy and individuality, to the group. That insists on possessing its subjects’ consciences and subjecting them to total control so that they may never question its authority. May never question the rightness or wrongness of its rule. May never use their consciences to question at all.

Escape from “paradise”

To ask Why, because independent thinking that asks Why might awaken its subjects to the Reality of their captivity. To the Truth that their “paradise” of forced conformance is based on a lie: that it’s for their benefit when it’s not. When its real purpose is only to preserve the authority of their oppressor. To preserve the appearance of its legitimacy, its façade of unreality.

The refugees in Rick’s Café are non-conformists not to make trouble, not to disrupt peace in the family. They’re non-conformists to stand up against the façade of peace that’s maintained by possession and coercion. By dominance, disempowerment, cruelty, and invalidation instead of sharing, empowerment, fairness, kindness, and affirmation. To stand up for the values that enable real peace, real harmony. Upheld by the free will of its subjects from the bottom up instead of forced upon them from the top down.

For love of Democracy, for love of Diversity

For all their differences the refugees in Rick’s Café are alike in one respect: they are all democrats. They gather together in Rick’s sanctuary in harmony because the values they share are shared freely, not dictated to them by Rick or by anyone else. They are individuals free to display their differences as we are in a free society, in a democracy.To display their individuality, their eccentricities, their special talents, because that’s the point: to enrich their society with diversity. With contributions from every source, every member with anything to offer no matter how unconventional.

The scene is set in the film’s opening shot as the camera pans from the pianist singing “Knock on Wood” to every table. Where individuals from different countries, different cultures, different perspectives, speaking different languages, are engaged in animated conversation. Opening themselves to an intimacy of thinking, feeling, and judgment that would be unimaginable back home. Sharing lives, sharing thoughts, debating philosophy and ideals.

The cruelty of an unchanging status quo

The title of the film Casablanca's original story was Everybody Comes to Rick’s. Because Rick’s welcomes everybody. Everybody, that is, with a conscience who thinks for themselves. Everybody who has the character and the courage to stand up for what’s right, for personal responsibility, kindness, and justice. The very same reasons why they’re not welcome back home.

For them, it’s an honor not to be welcome back home. A source of pride that they’ve stood up for their conscience and attracted notice. That they prefer exile to the comforts of home where free spirits with a conscience don’t belong. Where change is not welcome that would challenge the thoughtlessness, the cruelty, of an unchanging status quo. Proud that they don’t rely on affirmation by group conformance but by their own native worth, their own individual creativity, their own free spirit of love and inquiry.

Allons enfants de la Patrie!

Who comes to Rick’s? The children of Democracy. Those who love Democracy and the spirits of those who’ve fought and died for Democracy. In the context of its time, "Everybody Comes to Rick’s" was right: Everybody united in opposition to fascism comes to Rick’s. There was nobody else then, not in America.

Today, there is somebody else in America. They’ve chosen another place to go: Plato’s Cave. We will visit them in their Cave, but another time. Rick has just given his musicians permission to play La Marseillaise. A momentous change of mind that will put Victor and Ilsa on the last plane to Lisbon and end Rick’s tale with a beautiful friendship. I don’t want to miss it.

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Latino men are said to be gravitating toward the Republican Party because they believe in personal responsibility. Evidently they believe that liberal Democrats don’t share this belief. If so, they are dead wrong. I choose to be a liberal Democrat. I choose emphatically not to be a conservative Republican. I emphatically embrace a personal philosophy that is centered on individual personal responsibility: striving to reach our full potential by developing and using all the resources entrusted to our care. Using our God-given talents, our own minds, our own judgment, our own willpower, self-motivation and self-discipline, to achieve the goals that we set for ourselves.

This isn’t an aside. This is the heart and soul of liberal democracy that cannot survive unless its citizens practice personal responsibility, unless they do their part to keep it alive through their active participation. Liberal Democrats are the heart and soul of liberal democracy that affords us the freedom to do our part. Take away liberal Democrats and see what happens to democracy. They believe with all their heart that personal responsibility, empowered by free will, by freedom of choice, is the driving force behind our democracy and they fight every day to preserve it.

But they also recognize that the practice of personal responsibility has its limits. Even those most dedicated to striving, to doing for themselves, come up against adversity that exceeds their capacity. Everyone at some point needs help. Helping those who strive on their own but still need help isn’t the only function of government, but it’s certainly one of its functions. Though you may have been told otherwise it’s a legitimate function. It’s enshrined in the US Constitution and in every state constitution with every mention of the “public welfare.” If there was ever any doubt the liberal Democratic administration of Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression should have put it to rest.

Liberal Democrats who live and die by personal responsibility believe fervently that when government can help in times of adversity it should help. Conservative Republicans who preach personal responsibility are just as fervent that government should only help when their donor corporations screw up and need to be bailed out. Otherwise, their only interest in the “public welfare” is to shove the “public” – you and me – out of the way so they can take and do whatever they want. This is what they mean by “liberty:” getting rid of the rule of law that protects it.

After four years of Republican rule, it should no longer be a mystery what they want: to rule without opposition. To crush dissent. While they’ve been trying to rip out the Affordable Care Act “root and branch” they’re even busier ripping out democracy root and branch. They aim not to empower democracy with their authoritarian ways but to destroy it. They don’t want government to help strivers, they want government to get our of their way. Their idea of “personal responsibility” isn’t to honor it with their support, to help hard workers succeed. It’s to let them fail.

Anyone attracted to the Republican Party because they stand for personal responsibility has been deceived by Republican lies. By the lie that strivers never need help and when they do only big Republican donor corporations who screw up are entitled to it. Conservative Republicans today have become a caricature of the principles they once shared with liberal Democrats. They no longer share anything. They just want power – winning at any cost. For you and me? Not a chance! For themselves.

What does this make me? A survivor of conservative Republican lies -- hopefully not a vanishing breed. An individual striving on his own to do his best with as little help as possible. But also a member of a community that shares and empowers one another when help is needed.

So who would that be? What I’m proud to be. What I invite everyone who loves their country to be. What I invite you to be: a liberal Democrat.

The Hon. Charles Schumer, Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Re: Defense of Democratic Majority Rule of Law

Dear Senator Schumer:

When liberties granted to us by our Constitution are abused by extremist minorities for the purpose of overturning it our democratic leadership must respond aggressively to defend it. The cult of Mr. Trump, who lost the election, means to overturn democratic opposition until he is restored to power and his rule is absolute. I urge our democratic leadership to take steps at once to forestall this event beginning with abolition of the filibuster.

Do not wait for citadels of democracy to be overrun again to suspend or repeal the 2nd amendment and outlaw the NRA. Be prepared to declare martial law. Do not hesitate to outlaw acts that empower Trump's cause including donations, misinformation, and their sources if they persist, including "news" outlets, social media, and the thoroughly corrupted Republican party itself.

Majority rule by law has historically been held hostage to the South and other minority interests to preserve order for too long. It only emboldens and empowers them to do lasting harm. National security is now imperiled along with the Constitution and democracy. The time has come for the democratic majority to assert itself and expel minority thugs from the citadels of democracy once and for all.

Thank you for your inspired leadership on behalf of the majority. God bless.

David C. Harrison
January 30, 2021

Trump-Miller are attacking our entire democracy
Comprehensively and simultaneously
At all levels, on all fronts.

While we have been responding to individual threats.
To feints and maneuvers meant to distract us
Unable or unwilling to acknowledge the scale
The enormity of what they are doing.

We have been defending ourselves with peashooters.
With platoons and regiments, getting absolutely nowhere.
When what is needed is for the entire country to rise up as one army
With everyone doing their part.

If it is democracy that is under attack
Then democracy itself must respond.

We can't leave the fight to someone else.
We've got to take a stand.
And challenge everyone to do the same.
Democracy depends upon it.

Democracy needs us.
Our planet needs us.

Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln – marching together.
Beneath American flags, fifes and drums playing.
Every school child’s image of our founding.
Their cause was Democracy.

Our country stands for nothing if it does not stand for Democracy.
This is our cause, and it is being taken away from us.
Our country is being taken away from us.
Trampled underfoot by dictators at home and abroad.

When the Beast invades our homes, our places of peace
With intent to harm, our only choice is to resist.
If, in defending our homes, our country, our planet
Someone is offended, someone gets hurt, so be it.

Our cause is forced upon us.
To save our country for democracy.
Gently and with loving kindness if possible.
Aggressively if necessary.
But always: to hear and be heard.

1930’s National Socialism has metastasized to our shores.
All who would defend democracy
Reason and science, compassion, truth, and civility
Must take a stand.

Our Generation’s Civil War Has Begun.
Standing Up to the Beast.
Is where I stand.
Not the end, but only the beginning.

To my Republican friends, so very kind in person
So very cruel, insensitive, and disrespectful in your beliefs
Challenged by facts and logic, addicted to lies
Indifferent to personal character
Heedless of the catastrophe bearing down on us.

Heed this.
Admiral Yamamoto’s warning:
I fear that we have awakened a sleeping giant
And filled him with terrible resolve.

Democracy is a cause unlike any other.
Countless millions have fought and died for it.
Hong Kong fights and dies now.
Many millions more will rise up here with terrible resolve.

How then will you take away our democracy?
Our rights, our freedoms, our civil liberties?
Over our dead bodies!

To the rest of us
We are not passengers on a plane that’s just crash-landed.
Strapped to our seats, immobilized by shock
Waiting passively for the end to come.
We are soldiers in a cause. taking the fight to the enemy
Secure in the knowledge that our cause is just.
We will prevail.

The time to change minds ends
When there are no longer minds to change.
When there is only unreasoning hysteria, hatred, and madness.
Rampant guilt projected onto “them.”

Our skies are inflamed with the fires of hell.
It will be time enough to make peace, to trust and make friends
When the light of Reason and respect shines again.

When guilt is banished for the lie that it is
And truth is restored.
Innocence -- our sanctuary and our strength.

It will happen.
But for now: Uncle Sam wants YOU!

David C. Harrison
Redondo Beach, California
7 December 2019 - Pearl Harbor Day