We have had more than a week of devastating news from Washington DC on immigrants, workers, women, consumers, citizens, and non-citizens. Some of us are hoping to take a break from this madness on the Fourth of July, our country’s Independence Day. It’s a day to celebrate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, to celebrate freedom and justice, and to eat hot dogs.
People should know this celebration is mostly national mythmaking. Not only did Independence Day really occur on July 2, but it idealizes the past. It covers up the reality that our country was not born a democracy. It was born with slavery and genocide. The signing of the Declaration of Independence meant little for the approximately half a million slaves living in the 13 colonies, or for the Native Americans whose land was taken. It did not extend the vote to women, non-whites or property-less people.
Only the already privileged and powerful gained life and liberty with our country’s independence.
We are on the verge of repeating our history. There are more black people in prison now than there ever were slaved in America. American Indians’ rights are trodden upon and ignored – our local version of “Does Flint have clean water yet?” should be “Are the Duwamish a federally recognized tribe yet?”. The impending retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy means that same-sex marriage and abortion accessibility are under imminent threat.
Trump, in his endless lies and self-aggrandizement, has ripped off the scab of civility from some elected officials. These are mostly Republicans, but also include Democrats, and they are intent on taking apart Social Security and Medicare, ramping up anti-immigrant hatred, and insuring that workers remain powerless. These politicians created the political pathways, the dog whistles, and the calculations for reaction.
For progressives, it’s never been a more depressing time. But it helps to remember that even though there were huge fundamental problems of social justice in 1776, today is more equal than it was. Conservatives didn’t achieve that – they just want the status quo.
Progressives achieved change through constant protest, through consistent action, bit by bit. No one in 1776 would have thought America would be a country where women can vote, a black man can be president, and two men can marry. Those would have seemed insurmountable.
Remember that as you enjoy your holiday. Come back refreshed to fight for justice until your next day off.