Monday, July 4, 2011

independence day?

I am going to try to write a post that is not a list. I know, I know, you're so impressed. Well don't be, because it is going to be a jumble of partially processed thoughts based on questionable data and a dash of privilege.

Today is the 4th of July and I am feeling weird about it. Don't get me wrong, I think there are a lot of pretty great things about America and I am thankful to be American. But the textbook story of our country's beginnings has slowly lost its glory for me year by year, not because of what is said, but because of what is often left unsaid.

The 4th of July, or Independence Day, is the day of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, the day that the 13 colonies became independent states and America emerged from under the heavy hand of Great Britain. "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." What an amazing sentence... except that in 1776 it didn't really mean what it said.

I do not understand how slave-owners could have signed this statement. I do not understand how men who sanctioned the massacres of Native Americans could have signed it. I do not understand how so many beautiful truths could have been written at a time when so many atrocities were being carried out. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." Oh, unless they are black, in which case they are no longer humans and are now property. Oh, and if they already lived here before we arrived they are just a nuisance to be eliminated so that our Manifest Destiny can unfold as God surely desires. ?!?

I know there is a lot to celebrate today, but I also think we need to be real about what didn't happen on the 4th of July. Liberty and justice for all? Nope. Land of the free? Only if you're a white man. I'm not saying we should all mope around and be depressed about these things, but pretending that American people have been equal and free since 1776 is ignorant and offensive. And, whether most white people want to admit it or not, the bigotry and inequality that characterized our country's beginnings has left deep wounds which time alone will not heal... but that is a subject for another post. For now I'll just wish you all a Happy Let's-Keep-Working-Together-To-Actually-Live-Out-The-Declaration-of-Independence Day!

1 comment:

R.S. said...

I completely agree. Also, I've been thinking about that popular phrase/bumper sticker lately: "Freedom is not free." Though I believe it is in fallen human nature to war (whether just with your sibling or with a whole nation) and because of that I understand our need for a military (as any country has the same need) I disagree with our current position in many other countries. So for me the phrase "Freedom is not free" doesn't communicate what the original speaker intended it to. I think our relative freedoms here in the US and our access to anything we want whenever we want it is based on us stripping others of their freedoms. So it's true - our current "freedom" is NOT free, but it's not really us or our military paying the cost.

Controversial stance, for sure, especially since the American Church often loses sight of Heaven because we're too busy looking at earth.... Thanks for posting this.