in Garrett

Whose freedom?: Ruminations on “Independence Day”

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.
-Frederick Douglass, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”

“State of the Union address
Reads war torn country still a mess
The words power death and distorted truth
Are read between the lines of the red white and blue”

State of the Union, Rise Against

I used to have a tradition of sharing a song with the bridge “I’m proud and ashamed every fourth of July, you’ve got to know the truth before you say that you’ve got pride.”

Today, I’m feeling like actually understanding the truth of the situation we’re in now and being proud are mutually exclusive.

I was reading ‘What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?’ by Frederick Douglass, and while obviously the current situation in the US for myself isn’t close to that horror, I can’t help but identify with this feeling that considering this as a day of great freedom is mockery.

I’m currently listening to people light fireworks for “Independence Day”, but I live in California which has the highest amount of prisoners in a country which has the most people in prison around the globe. They aren’t free.

I have friends who are broke and are worrying about homelessness because the system is set up to make it so people like them can’t get ahead no matter how hard they try. They aren’t free.

I know many people who can’t come out as who they really are for fear of being ostracized by their families and communities, possibly having their lives at risk. They aren’t free.

There are people who came from Mexico seeking a better life because US interference screwed with their country, who aren’t doing anything harmful to anyone just trying to survive, being likened to rapists and murderers and under threat of being sent home by ICE. They aren’t free.

There are trans people in multiple states which can’t go into bathrooms matching their gender, something which has actual harm. They aren’t free.

Black people know that the cops who are supposedly there to serve and protect us are quite likely to kill or unfairly target them based simply on skin color. They aren’t free.

There are many people including myself who see this recent failure of the AHCA simply a stay in execution because the last time it failed it came back even worse and we know that when it does pass many of us are going to die. That’s not freedom.

Who’s truly free? Well, I do feel that the Founding Fathers did succeed in gaining independence for their people…meaning fellow rich white men, because they are still in full control.

So…how the hell can we celebrate independence when so many of us are in chains from systemic threats to our lives simply because of our existence?

How is it right to be upset with people who don’t respond to your saying “Happy 4th of July” with similar joy when their lives or the lives of their loved ones are in some way controlled?

The reality is that many of us never have been and are sure as hell not right now free. We are trapped in situations beyond our control not because of our actions but for how we dared to be born.

I’m not going to condemn you for your cookouts or family gatherings, Gods know we barely get enough of those.

But I am going to say this:

If freedom is so important to you that you’re going to devote a day to celebrating it, remember that there are so many who don’t have it…and fight so that they do.

If that’s the ideal that you think America is all about, then get active to make it so others have it.

Make it more than just a cookout that rubs our reality in our faces, try to make it mean something.

Because we live a constant battle, and if you don’t and you have told someone happy Independence Day, want to believe in freedom, then you shouldn’t be content with the country chaining so many of us, and should fight to make this world different.

When we fight until more people are free maybe then it will be fine to celebrate a day of independence, until then let’s work to make it so.

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