Celebrate Independence Day?

What are we celebrating on this Independence Day? We can say the flag, Mom and apple pie, the usual shorthand for an America that stood by unexamined ideals, blind to the abuses of the white, Anglo-Saxon European invaders and the resulting institutional racism and imperialism that has defined this nation since the first illegal aliens — intruders — set foot on Plymouth Rock. The introduction of white privilege.

In our Declaration of Independence, Native Americans are referred to as “merciless Indian savages.”

In 1869 Lieutenant General Phillip H. Sheridan is reported to have told Comanche Chief Tosahwi, “The only good Indians I ever saw were dead.”

That’s how we treated — we treat — the indigenous population within our borders.

Even before Sheridan made his often misquoted remark, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830 and then forced over 100,000 Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Seminoles and Cherokees from their ancestral lands in the Southern States so the white settlers could take their land. That was the Trail of Tears. Then there was the theft of the Black Hills and the wars between the plains Indians and the U.S. Army.

The U.S. started a war with Mexico in 1846 so we could take their land , which was rich in gold and other precious metals. The new American owners did what the Spanish had done as they built their Spanish Missions up and down California — the enslaved several indigenous nations.

Is this what we celebrate on Independence Day?

It would be hypocritical of me to suggest we give all the land back to the Native American nations  because I happen to like where I live. But that leaves the question of what do we owe the heirs of the indigenous nations who now live in our communities and on reservations? It’s a question I can’t answer, but it’s a lot.

Then there is the institution of slavery, which began before Africans were kidnapped from their homes and dragged across the Atlantic Ocean, against their will, and put into bondage in North America? We still live with institutional racism, especially in the legal and law enforcement systems. The 13thAmendment may have been passed on December 5, 1865, thereby ending slavery and indentured servitude, unless as a punishment for crimes.  That may have passed but we as a nation have been suffering under the weight of slavery’s legacy.

There are racist, fascist organizations in this country, like the Heritage Foundation, that wan to stope DEI — Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Why? Because it gives non-white ethnic groups an equal share of the American dream. They are against “woke,” whatever that means these days, and they’re against the rule of law and democracy. The Heritage Foundation has laid it out in their “Project 2025,” the agenda for a second Trump presidency. And their president, Dr. Kevin Roberts, threatened violence if the rest of us don’t go along with their democracy-ending agenda. You can find a link on the X account of Real America’s Voice, if you care to watch it.

This hyper-fascist cabal of so-called conservatives already own the majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, a court that has taken rights away from Americans for the first time in many decades. Voting rights, civil liberties and now bodily autonomy for women — the right of women to keep their health care decisions between them and their doctors.

Now, most recently, the court ruled that presidents are above the law, that they have immunity from prosecution for core official acts. The U.S. Supreme Court in effect ended the core legal tenet that no person is above the law.

So what are we celebrating on this, the 248th birthday of our nation? I’m tempted to say freedom, but we don’t all have freedom in equal measure. Celebrating our break from an imperialist king? Yeah, but, the Supreme Court just created an imperialist president.

I guess we can celebrate that we are still standing after 248 years and the myth we have created about the noble idea that  “… that all men are created equal.”

Independence Day and Memorial Day have always been my most sacred holidays, but like Columbus Day and Thanksgiving, the legacy of racism and white privilege is still a millstone around our collective neck. To be honest, I have benefitted from white privilege.

Celebrate today. Cook some steaks on the grill, or hot dogs and burgers, or fish, chicken and vegetables. Whatever suits your fancy. Eat more ice cream and watermelon, go to the beach, take a swim in the ocean or the backyard pool.  Enjoy this one day we have the freedom to celebrate our nation’s birthday any way we choose.

Maybe we can celebrate the noble idea that starts the U.S. Constitution, that we can strive to “… form a more perfect union.” Yeah, let’s celebrate that too.

Take care of ourselves and remember fireworks freak out our furry friends.

Happy 4th of July.

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