On Tuesday, 4 July, the nation will celebrate the anniversary of publication of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776.
A bit of history: The first description of how Independence Day would be celebrated was in a letter from John Adams to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776. He described “pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations” throughout the United States. However, the term “Independence Day” was not used until 1791.
A bit of trivia: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both signers of the Declaration of Independence and presidents of the United States, died on July 4, 1826 – exactly 50 years after the adoption of the declaration.
Today, most families celebrate the holiday pretty much as described by John Adams, with parades, picnics, and at the end of the day, fireworks.
To be sure, there are still plenty of good things about this nation. There are a multitude of “good people doing good things”, as I point out every Wednesday. And there are many, many people who are fighting every day for truth, justice, and equal rights for all. We have beautiful lakes, mountains and forests. And as of this writing, we are relatively free from oppression, we have a relatively free press and freedom to speak our minds, else I would not be writing this blog. However …
This year, I must admit that I have no joy over the holiday. Always in the past, I have felt proud of what had been accomplished in our nation in just two centuries, was proud to be a citizen of the United States. No country is perfect, and I understood the flaws of our government and our citizenry, but still … it was a pretty damn good country. Today, however, I am not all that proud of this nation. I am ashamed and disgusted. I have even wondered if perhaps we would have been better off to have remained a colony of the crown.
Much of my shame, of course, comes from what has become of the office of the president. Even though we have had some less-than-noble men sitting in the Oval Office before, it has never been as thoroughly defiled as it has been over the past five months. The policies and ideologies of the current administration are in direct contrast to those put forth by the framers of the Constitution, who began that document with the words:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
To celebrate 241 years, even as our citizens are being deprived of adequate, affordable health care, are being deprived of clean air and water, deprived of a solid education for their children, seems wrong. Our African-American citizens are often being abused, targeted by the very officers of the law who should be protecting them, and are not given justice for any of it. Our tax dollars go to buy guns, tanks and bombs, not to provide basic necessities for our poor and elderly. So no, I find no pride in my heart for the government of this nation. At its head is a ‘man’ who is vulgar, crass, and respects no one. It is comprised of rich, corrupt men who care not a whit for the citizens … not a whit.
But my shame and disappointment goes much deeper than just the people in the White House and Congress, for they shall pass through quickly enough (we hope) and be replaced with other, hopefully more conscionable politicians. The deepest part of my shame is with my fellow citizens.
I am ashamed that a large portion of this country believe that they are superior to others because of the colour of their skin. I am ashamed that many have chosen to hate and even murder others because they do not share the same religion. I am ashamed of those who cannot accept that a person may fall in love with another of the same gender. I am ashamed that people are more willing to fight to carry lethal weapons than they are to fight for their children. I am ashamed that people have reverted to the racism of the past without learning from the lessons of history. I am ashamed of the people who would turn away refugees from the Middle East and send them to an almost certain death. I am ashamed when I hear people promoting violence against their fellow humans at rallies and protests, that some still have not learned the art of ‘peaceful’ protest. I am ashamed that so many are willing to sacrifice our very planet out of ignorance. I am ashamed that so many refuse to learn facts, but rather accept as fact whatever they are told. I am ashamed of those who use their religion as a shield, but judge people by the colour of their skin and refuse to offer assistance to those in need.
Most of all, I am saddened by the vileness and hate I read about every day. Certainly it is natural that we are not all going to agree on everything, that there will be debates and disputes, but today in this nation, there is pure, ugly hate. The person who is supposed to be a leader incites violence, tells people to punch others and he will cover their legal fees. A man recently elected to Congress beat up a reporter who was just doing his job the night before he was elected.
For me, all of this makes it very difficult to celebrate a day that should be about being proud of our nation, for I am not at all proud right now. In my household, Tuesday will be just another day. There will be no grill-out, no parades, no fireworks. I shall write, my daughter will study, and Miss Goose will no doubt draw. And we will be content in our own skins, but I think none of us will be particularly proud of what our nation has become. I find no reason for a celebration this July fourth. For me, it is just another day.