America, Time to Wake Up
Did you display any of the following symptoms this week?
- General sense of laziness
- Heightened desire to lay in bed and watch silly tv (i.e. Riverdale)
- Cravings for unhealthy food (i.e. pizza)
- Groggy, uncreative mind
If so, you may have been suffering from the 5th of July Blues. Since the 4th of July fell on a Wednesday this year, many of us had to return to the grind for two more days before the weekend. In turn, Thursday and Friday felt like a blur. We had difficulty investing in work and experience, tiredness from having a wrench in our routine. I was definitely guilty of eating dinner in bed this week and watching guilty pleasure television. My motivation and drive were lower than normal.
Just Not That into America
Although I chalk a lot of my general blueness up to unhealthy eating and sleep deprivation, I can’t deny
that this 4th of July felt different from all the rest. If I’m being honest, I’m just not that into America anymore.
Sure, I woke early to go to the Old State House and hear the
Declaration of Independence be read aloud for the 242nd time in that location. The people gathered were diverse. I met a woman named Rachel whose husband was studying in America. They were Jewish, and she had written her dissertation on America’s colonial history. Then there was the Indian family next to me, and the Chinese mother and daughter duo behind me. Personally, the most amazing thing about America is its diversity.
But people find diversity so threatening, and the United States is led by a person who hates it the most. He is giving a voice to all the people who have always felt this way, and quite frankly, it’s scary.
Who else felt a little sad and maybe even angry by all the 4th of July pictures and parties we threw, knowing that so many people here are still not treated equal and that racism and sexism are rampant? How could I celebrate a nation where so many people’s voices are still being silenced, when pay is not equal, when healthcare is a wreck, when people flock to our borders and are being caged and held in suspension for months?
King George or Trump?
In this tumultuous political climate, it felt like I heard the Declaration of Independence with different ears this year. So much of it seemed to ring true. We escaped a British “tyrant” to be free, but when the founding father’s described their situation, it sounded an awful lot like our leadership today. Here are a few quotes:
“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”
“He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.”
“He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.”
“For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world.”
“A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”
All *White* Men Are Created Equal
Just so you know, I’m not condoning the founding fathers either. When they say:
“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.”
Unfortunately, their definition of “all men” didn’t necessarily include “all men.” Many of them did not consider Africans, African Americans or Native Americans as people who fell under the definition of “all men.” I’m also assuming that many didn’t consider their wives to fall under this definition too.
Most of our founding fathers had slaves and didn’t feel like it was wrong nor that these individuals should be considered citizens. I just can’t wrap my mind around that! Let me just say that again: These “fathers” that so many glorify HAD SLAVES and didn’t consider them PEOPLE. Why are we proud of this history?
Thomas Jefferson (although he was a slave owner), did try to advocate for some glimmer of sanity in the Declaration of Independence. According to an article on BlackPast.org, he wanted to include a passage in the Declaration of Independence that attacked slavery. Jefferson was met with much debate among other delegates, and he blames the delegates from South Carolina, Georgia and some from the North who had affiliations with merchants. Here is a portion of the original passage that was removed:
“He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce…”
So it seems, although equality has always been a value of America, it is still something we strive toward. Will it ever fully come to fruition? Will people of all races and ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations and socio-economic status be equal? I want to say yes, but I don’t even think I can imagine it right now.
According to Jelani Cobb, a professor of journalism at Columbia University and a staff writer at the New
Yorker, “We have yet to permanently enshrine a concept of democracy that sees itself as enriched by the presence and success of others.”
His theory is that most political climates, not just the United States, experiences identity politics, which she defines as “a cycle of progress followed by backlash.”
We can see this embed through America’s history: After the Civil War 2000 African-Americans were elected to political office during reconstruction. This was followed by the Jim Crow era. Immigration is another example where the United States has opened and closed its borders time and time again. And of course, we are seeing this now where we finally elected our first African American president and his predecessor is a racist tyrant.
So for all of these reasons, I’ve spent my 4th of July holiday and the days following, trying to understand America’s history – the good and the bad (which was never really taught in public schools, let alone the private Christian school that I attended). I concluded that this year I just couldn’t celebrate America how it was and how it is.
Something to Celebrate
But we can celebrate some of its ideals.
We can celebrate that we live in a country where we can at least talk about the issues. We are finally at a place where some of us aren’t trying to push the issues under the rug anymore, pretending everything is fine and that America is great. Instead, we want to face the issues head-on, so we can at least strive for a solution. We can protest and call our senators and try to legally fight what the leadership wants to regress.
A part of me is thankful to be here, where I can start my own business, drive a car, own my own car, have clean water (but not everyone in America does), buy plenty of food (but not everyone in America can), own enough clothes to cover me, and participate in democracy (or at least what’s left of it).
We can also celebrate America’s diversity – in my opinion the best characteristic we have. It makes us strong, creative and beautiful. It gives me the slightest bit of hope that change will come, and we may one day be empowered by our differences instead of cowards to them.
What can we do?
So on this weekend after the 4th of July, where we are all probably a little tired, a little over it and enjoying the freedom of our weekend, let’s remember the good and the bad of American history, let’s learn from our mistakes and let’s try to move forward honoring America’s most beautiful treasure of all – it’s people in all their shapes, sizes, and colors. This isn’t an issue that will change over night (obviously), but the we increase our awareness, practice empathy and seek truth in our selves and others, the better chance we have to improve this nation, one small step at a time.
**I’m assembling a follow-up to this to help us all increase our awareness of these issue. It will include people to follow on social media, organizations that deserve your donations and publications that speak the truth. The intention is to help us all stay more aware and increase our empathy. If you have any suggestions for people, organizations or publications to include, please let me know in the comments below. Much Love!