This week the United States of America is 241 years old. There are ambivalent feelings about that. Some are celebrating. Some are questioning whether to celebrate.
Do we celebrate that this land was taken from the original inhabitants? Do we celebrate that people were taken from Africa in order to work this land for the benefit of the victors of the Revolutionary War?
Do we celebrate the independence of separating from a nation in order to establish a land of religious tolerance and freedom that now is seemingly being denied by Republicans and the current occupant of the oval office? Do we celebrate the words of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America which state “liberty & justice for all,” “we are all created equal,” when we see in 2017 that isn’t reality for people of color, people without access to power, people in low-income communities, and people who struggle every day to be visible.
The 4th of July might be cause for celebration for some but for many it is not. This article quotes the feelings of some that feel it is not: July Fourth holiday brings mixed feelings for minorities http://a.msn.com/01/en-us/BBDAO0B?ocid=se
Recently at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, the living quarters of Sally Hemings was uncovered. Ms. Hemings was the enslaved mistress of Thomas Jefferson who gave birth to at least six of his children. In 2016, a project was announced that would renovate areas of the plantation which include paying homage to the enslaved people who lived there. You can read about the recent discovery of Ms. Hemings living quarters in this article:
Historians Uncover Slave Quarters of Sally Hemings at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello http://a.msn.com/01/en-us/BBDEsEF?ocid=se
It is interesting that the article notes that visitors to Monticello ask questions relevant to the mixed feelings that some of us have about the 4th of July holiday such as, “Why did Jefferson own slaves and write that all men are created equal?” As an author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson owned 600 slaves. Hmm, that kind of makes ya think.
Inequality is real and still prevalent for many Americans. It’s a big country and none of us living today was around when the country’s documents were signed or the first shot was fired that resulted in the fight for independence. But, this is where we live now. Whether we were born here or migrated here. Whether our ancestors came here voluntarily or were captured as slaves and dragged here, this land is where we are now. Whether our ancestors were the original owners of this land yet had it taken from them by occupied forces and our ancestors traveled a trail of tears, this is the where we are now. So, even if we may not feel like celebrating what happened on July 4, 1776, my suggestion is to celebrate that we are here now in 2017 and think about where you want our country to be on the next 4th of July in 2018. Decide what you can do to make that happen.
There was not all perfection in the writing of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution of the United States of America. There were visions of what should be and how to get there by the writers. Some of that has worked out in one way or another. Some things have come close to being realized and some still have a long way to go. In fact we know that amendments have been made to the Constitution so clearly improvement has been useful. Everything was not always clear … “all men are created equal” certainly benefited from some clarification. Life is a work in process and so too is our country.
On this 4th of July, I am not just celebrating what happened in 1776 because it was one event with many sequels. I am choosing to celebrate that you and I have the ability to keep things moving forward. That the Constitution is a document that guides us but laws can be made that move it further into reality and judges can ensure the spirit of justice is maintained. Too many injustices still happen every time a killer or abuser is not found guilty when evidence seems to show otherwise but the system failed the victim. I will celebrate my right to vote that came with amendments to the Constitution because some people didn’t fully interpret “all men are created equal.”
I will celebrate the blood and lives given by my ancestors so that I could have a job, could buy a home in the neighborhood of our choice, could send our children to the school of our choice, can drink out of a water fountain without a sign on it, and can walk into a store through the front door. I will celebrate the freedom of speech to speak out about change that needs to be changed. I will celebrate that we had eight years of a black man as President who truly made us all proud. Happy 4th of July for now and for what is to come.