We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Today is the Fourth of July. It’s a day to celebrate the Declaration of Independence.
I’d like to. But something won’t let me. At least not fully.
I start my Sunday blog piece on Mondays. This past Monday it started like this: Today is the Fourth of July. Let’s celebrate.
I stopped. I wasn’t feelin’ it. I wasn’t feelin’ any joy. I wasn’t sure why. I just wasn’t.
On Tuesday I started again. Today is the Fourth of July. Let’s celebrate.
I stopped. I still wasn’t feelin’ it.
On Wednesday it happened again. So I called a time-out for myself.
I took a walk. I sat on a stump, tapped my foot, and scratched my head.
And then, at last, I figured it out. I saw through the cloud of gloom.
The week before, a friend had sent me Frederick Douglass’s speech commemorating the Declaration of Independence in Rochester’s Corinthian Hall on July 5, 1852.
The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.
I had seen that years ago. At that time it blindsided me because I hadn’t seen that truth before: The independence declared in 1776 was for certain people, not all people. “We the people” doesn’t necessarily mean “all the people.” And to think, for most of my life I thought it did.
This Fourth of July is yours, not mine.
I was awakened from my dogmatic slumbers. But, alas, I dozed off again.
But not this time. Not after Breonna Taylor. Not after George Floyd. Not after voter suppression maneuvers in Congress.
You may rejoice, I must mourn.
It was true then and it’s still true today.
Today is the Fourth of July. Yes, it’s a time to rejoice. But it’s also a time to mourn.
For there’s another self-evident truth: We do not treat each other as equals.
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PS: Both my books are now available on Amazon. 80 Dispatches from the Devil’s Domain and Let Love Arise. Please spread the word and/or submit a review.
See Paula’s photo new montage on the home page. Posted June 20.
We are, indeed, a work in progress. It is an aspiration to live up to and fulfill that truth – we were all created equal, endowed by our creator… We have a long way to go, but go we shall – inspired by those who never gave up – gave everything, so that we may strive for that “more perfect union”. We ain’t there yet. But it’s a journey worth making. Let’s keep a goin’ 🙏🏼
So sadly true. But this year we can rejoice in no military parade and no hijack of the fireworks by a monstrous ego. What a great man Douglass was. Thank you for the reminder to read him again.
Yes. Learn from the past so as to not repeat or continue our mistakes.
My sentiments as well! No amount of parades, fireworks, and flag-waving can erase or minimize our past and present injustices, as Frederick Douglass insists. We cannot overlook 1619 and only focus on 1776. Perhaps we need a new Declaration, one of true Interdependence with each other and the world. Then all of us will be truly free!
So true but let’s keep our hope and fight (even if only in small increments) towards equality and a real declaration of freedom for all.
Ever since you suggested the book “Waking up White” I have become acutely aware of ”white privileged”! Unfortunately I see this almost daily in our government officials, tv adds, and sadly mundane conversations with friends and family! Like you I sit and mourn. We really have learned very little from our 400 year pandemic 😢😢
Same here, fellow white person. All that singing dixie, all those confederate flag beach towels, all that accepting the lie of the textbooks about states rights, all those small town confederate monuments (cannon always facing north, check it out), so blind to the not self-evident truth? For me, it was Charlottesville. No more. No more July 4 Independence day. I say drop it and maybe substitute Juneteenth as it represents freedom for so many more people (including white people, see above). I know, keep breathing. And one more thing, I’ll never sing ‘this land is your land’ ever again.
I used to discuss with my students that a person has the right to pursue happiness, but that didn’t mean one was going to be the recipient of it just for making the quest. But that particular discussion didn’t focus on race. I was in my 20s before I learned about Denmark Vesey’s slave rebellion in South Carolina, and a bit younger when I read Bill Styron’s, “The Confessions of Nate Turner; I was in my early 30s before I learned about Juneteenth, through a Blues festival, and that learning experience came long after I knew that Kirby Smith’s Texas Confederate Army was the last to surrender months after Appomattox. The point being that my self-education turned out to be and continues to be the real education. So educate, and don’t flagellate yourself. Life is for learning.
I find it deeply disturbing that our Flag has become a symbol for the conservative Right. These days, flying a large American flag outside your home will likely cause passers-by to assume you’re a Trump supporter. But I’m not, and I don’t want to forego my show of pride to be an American, while still openly acknowledging that we can do far better as a nation and as a people. When did advocating for equality and striving to do better become unpatriotic? Let’s take back the Flag and show that we will not allow it to only be used by those who fail to understand the true values upon which this great nation was built!
I say drop celebrating the Fourth too. Frederick Douglas has written the second verse of the Star Spangled Banner. When are we going to include the members of our native American nations in our mourning, in our efforts to practice long-overdue justice, in our thoughts and plans for restitution, in our acknowledgment of the evils we have wrought, the killing, the torture, the forced separation, imprisonment, ‘re-education’ and punishment of children, the relentless disrespect for customs, knowledge and spirituality not our own, the theft of land, possessions, the attempt to destroy tribal communities and eradicate history, customs and culture? The news is so silent about Native Americans. You’d think they don’t exist.
Hope you become able to celebrate as well as mourn. We are capable of both. We have come a long way since Douglas. Taylor and Floyd visited with the Devil and got burned as so many of us will if we take such a path. While we may not concur with getting killed it may have happened before something worse occurred to them. Who knows?
The sad part is as a black person Ive always been somewhat conflicted about the love I have for my own country and how hard I should cheer for her. I was taught true history as a child not a glossed over version that excluded the ills of our country, therefore I’m fully aware of America’s treacherous ways at home and abroad. It always felt like America’s independence wasn’t truly about me or the start of anything worthwhile because I knew my ancestors were excluded from the benefits of the victory. Even to this day at 48 years old it still makes for a weird feeling celebration that black people like myself generally rationalize as a day off from work which is ironic in itself. Regardless of her sick and twisted ways I love America. I believe it’s mostly because she’s all I’ve ever known……but don’t for one second think I am oblivious to the fact that I am in an abusive relationship or that I’m happy or satisfied with her.
Here’s another thought: Liberty and justice for all is like a tree. The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, but the next-best time to do it is now.