I have always loved the fourth of July; the mid-summer holiday, the nostalgic look back at the victories of American revolutionaries throwing off the yoke of tyranny.
I loved it, uncritically as a child.
I loved it without thought or question.
As I grew older, and learned more about the real history of the revolutionary war, the real politics of the founders, the philosophies that drove them, the numerous ways in which they were morally and ethically compromised (compromise is too light of a word), by war mongering, and profiteering, and slave-holding. As I learned more about these truths, it became self-evident, that the nation was founded on a carefully balanced set of ideals that the founders themselves did not have the courage to live up to.
America was founded on a compact of lies.
The preamble to the constitution states that all people are created equal and possess, as an inherent aspect of their being, rights which they cannot be separated from, the foremost of which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The rights are unalienable, or se we are told. This has always been just wishful thinking.
The expression of this truth, and its codification in law, did not at the same time abolish the institutions of slavery, give women the right to own land, to vote, and other rights of self-determination. It did not make unlawful, wars of aggression against the sovereign nations of the First People. Those self-evident truths, those unalienable rights, did not prevent the United States of American entering into a campaign of genocide and extermination against them.
The founders applied these principles to themselves, and their “peers,” used those principles to justify their separation for the dominion of England, and to protect their property after the war of independence had been won.
War and battle create many opportunities for selflessness and displays of courage that most human beings cannot help but admire and applaud, even though the antecedents of war and the causes of conflict are always unjust, morally vacant and abhorrent.
In my heart, I want to celebrate the revolutionaries, their courage, the flag which unifies us, but I find it difficult. The story of the America, beginning on July 4th, is one that has many bright moments, but we are foolish, cold-hearted and ignorant if we do not at the same time recognize the millions of slaves who built our first cities, who farmed the plantations, who established our first industries, and the millions of people belonging to sovereign nations that we crushed in our westward expansion, starving them and killing them without mercy, displacing them and outlawing their religion and customs, erasing their language.
Does anyone find that easy?
The Fourth of July should be a time of soul searching and deep reflection, forget about the flag waving and jingoism.
Ask yourself what it means to be an American; immigrant, refugee, revolutionary, stolen people enslaved people, conquered people, vanquished people we are the descendants of them all.
Given 1st – 2016.07.04