Sunday, July 4, 2010
My Fellow Americans,
I'm always torn on the Fourth of July, between feeling grateful that I live where I live, and not in a country where FGM and stoning and acid attacks are the norm, and feeling utterly ashamed by the horrific past the good ol' U.S.A. has of exploiting, slaughtering, an enslaving its people.
I suppose it's OK to feel both ways on this day. It is also OK to eat 5 burgers and wash them down with a beer each, which I plan to do.
But amidst the brouhaha of fireworks and BBQ, I encourage everyone to do a little internet exploration and learn something new about our past. No doubt it will be a depressing delve into history, but it's important to know about the injustices the U.S. has inflicted upon its citizens... because unfortunately those injustices are being repeated today. A good place to start is with Frederick Douglass' "Fourth of July" speech, delivered in 1852 to a crowd of white men, including the president. In his speech, Douglass asked why he was invited to speak, when clearly the country they were celebrating still saw him as less than human.
Fellow citizens; above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, today, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is AMERICAN SLAVERY. I shall see, this day, and its popular characteristics, from the slave's point of view. Standing, there, identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July!
Sums up my sentiments quite well. Other things to do today: read the "Declaration of Sentiments," put together in 1848 at the herstoric Seneca Falls Convention. Also learn about the women that played key roles in the American Revolution, conveniently left out of history textbooks.
Also, take a look at some reflective pieces written by contemplative Americans who are using today to ask some important questions. "Has the American Dream Become Our Nightmare?" on AlterNet is a good place to start.
But let's not get too down today. After all the depressing stuff, find a reason to smile, whether it's what I said earlier about being grateful that we live here considering some of the alternatives, knowing that amidst all the injustices in this country, we can truly make a difference, or this Michael Ian Black/Michael Showalter 4th of July video:
Enjoy today, and eat many hot dogs (or soy dogs).