When I woke up this morning I was a bit of a mess. I didn’t want to celebrate a nation that wasn’t celebrating, or even respecting me.
I was fed up.
I thought about all the things that this holiday tends to celebrate – American exceptionalism, American colonialism, American bigotry… And, I just couldn’t do it.
I was too angry. I felt too betrayed by my country, and I saw too many other people, much worse off than me, being hurt by my country’s policies, laws and ignorance and I didn’t see anything worth celebrating.
I tried to wake my husband up with the first cup of morning tea, but as I handed it over to him, I just collapsed in sobs, waking him up with tears instead.
We talked, and he reminded me that the 4th of July doesn’t actually celebrate the independence of America from Britain, it celebrates the INTENT. We don’t celebrate the day that Revolutionary War was won. No, we celebrate the event that started the war, the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
We celebrate the day a group of people said, ENOUGH!
We celebrate the day that we declared, “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.”
And that is something I CAN celebrate – the intention to create a nation where all people are created equal, where all people are treated equally under the law, where all people are afforded equal respect and all people are seen as worthy of dignity and the same unalienable rights.
But – we aren’t there yet. And I think that on this day, above all others, we need to collectively recognize that there is still work to be done. We are still on the journey. We still have a long way to go.
The fight is not over.
We may have beaten the British. We may have passed the 13th amendment and (finally) freed the slaves. We may have extended citizenship and voting rights to a larger number of people. We may have passed the Civil Rights Act, but we are not done yet.
We have not ratified the ERA, making women full legal citizens with the same protections under the law as men. We are still battling the legacy of slavery and entrenched racism within our borders. We are still denying equal rights and equal humanity to gay and transgender people. We are still trampling on the native and natural rights of our country’s first inhabitants unless they reject their ancestry and assimilate into our world view. We are still calling ourselves patriots while blockading buses of refugee CHILDREN.
When the Declaration of Independence was written, our founding fathers did not truly include all people in their manifesto – but as Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently stated, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Today I am going to celebrate the progress we have made, the progress we are pushing for and the intention to see it through, to truly create a nation where ALL PEOPLE are seen as equally endowed with the same rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
I hope you’ll join me on the journey. It’s a long, twisty road, but it’s not so hard when we walk it together.