4th of July

Having been born in the USA, and being a person who thinks of herself as a patriotic American, I am just as much of a sucker for fireworks and parades as anyone.

(Well, except that fireworks are upsetting to many pets, and to many veterans and other people who suffer from PTSD. The noise can supposedly also startle birds to the point where they lose their nests and abandon their babies. And the debris is harmful to aquatic and marine life when fireworks are shot over water, I read recently.)

But yeah, I get sentimental on the 4th of July, and I have been known to wear red, white, and blue; display the American flag; that kind of thing. I sometimes get teary-eyed when singing the National Anthem or saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Some Independence Day potlucks I’ve held in years past have featured a reading-out-loud of the Bill of Rights.

None of that keeps me from questioning the foundational integrity of my country, and seeking to root out the rotten planks. In particular: colonialism, in all of its forms. Including but not limited to:

– Our history of genocide and persecution of the Native Americans; and the lingering current-day effects of that history.

– Our history of kidnapping and enslavement of African people; and the lingering current-day effects of that history.

– Our continued military incursions into other countries, bringing untold suffering and generally causing more problems than we solve.

– Our historic and ongoing economic colonialism, putting pressure on forests, oceans, and other ecosystems worldwide to satisfy the “needs” of our rich industrialized consumer nation. Consuming far more than our share of the world’s resources, to the extent that we are actually on a fast-track to destroying our planetary life-support system.

I want my country to step up and be the best it can be. Nations, like individual human beings, are fallible. As a person who’s done plenty of wrong in her life, but was fortunate enough to find books, teachers, and programs that taught me how redemption is possible, I can attest to the power of confession, repentance, and atonement. And I consider it my patriotic duty to do my share of helping my country get into integrity; live up to the fine words of its founding principles.

Happy 4th of July, fellow USAmericans! And anyone else who chooses to join us in celebrating. Independence doesn’t mean being being free to do whatever we want. Our privilege comes with great responsibility. We have duties to fellow human beings; to all other species; to our beautiful and abundant land; to all ecosystems worldwide.

Further Exploration:

• “Rethink the Founding Fathers” (Anti-Racism Daily, July 2, 2021). “…[M]any believe the Constitution is an enlightened document, despite the fact that its authors weren’t exactly saint-like. By this way of thinking, George Washington was a historic hero and genius who helped invent democracy and freedom. But he didn’t extend these beliefs to the enslaved men, women, and children he owned as property and whose labor made him the richest man in Colonial America … In order to keep the ideals of Washington and Jefferson eternal, we’re asked to disregard the crimes against humanity that they executed in their pursuit of the nation. … Our nation is also quick to protect our Constitution to maintain superiority over other nations. But no cartoon villain portrait of America’s enemies can whitewash the horror of a continental Indigenous genocide … or the barbarity of a forced-labor empire of cotton, tobacco, and rice plantations sprawled across the South. … When Nazi jurists looked for a precedent for the kind of racial laws that led to the Holocaust, they found the American Jim Crow system a shining example … Today, ‘there are now more people under “correctional supervision” in America — more than six million — than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height’ …”

The Constitution of the United States: A Transcription (U.S. National Archives)

Declaration of Independence: A Transcription (U.S. National Archives)

• “Declaration of Independence Copy Sells for $4.4 Million” (Stephan Salisbury; Philadelphia Inquirer TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE). Cool story — can you imagine finding this in your attic or basement? And can you imagine having the engraving skills to produce this? “Concerned by excessive wear to the original Declaration, Adams commissioned Stone in 1820 to produce an exact rendering. The engraver labored for three years over his copper plate – eventually producing what is considered the most meticulous copy of the original document ever made. The 201 copies on parchment were distributed to the signers of the original Declaration, political leaders, and institutions. … The copy sold by Freeman’s … was one of two presented to signer Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Maryland, in 1824 (the other is in the collection of the Maryland Center for History and Culture) … It then passed to Carroll’s granddaughter and executor Emily Caton and her husband, John MacTavish, and subsequently descended in a Scottish family out of public view for 177 years …”

A People’s History of the United States — 1492 to Present (book by Howard Zinn). I have only read maybe 20 or 30 pages of this 784-page book, but what I read really turned on a light-bulb in my mind, helping me understand that the history we’d been taught in school was seriously off. This book was my introduction to the roots of systemic racism. So much fell into place once I read how the plantation owners had created the concept of “whiteness” in order to foster division between their white indentured servants and the Africans they had enslaved. (According to Zinn, the white servants and the enslaved Africans felt a natural affinity for one another and they often socialized, did business together, and intermarried — a degree of cohesion that threatened the plantation owners’ power.)