This holiday, people will celebrate but they won’t truly know why. They’ll fly flags, grill food, and wound themselves with fireworks like they always do.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident,” says the Declaration of Independence, “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.”
The Declaration was written just shy of 250 years ago. It is as clear today as it was back then that it was written with one type of person in mind. Are we comfortable with that truth? As freedom is stripped away, as lives are lost, as children lay weeping in cages, are we contented? Are we celebrating?
Our nation suffers from a cognitive dissonance. When it comes to our constitution, our morals, and how any of us came to be in this country in the first place, we suspend our capacity to distinguish the reality from the rhetoric.
Why is the Fourth of July celebrated far and wide, while Juneteenth (a celebration of the emancipation from slavery and liberation of the last enslaved people in Texas) goes by relatively unnoticed?
We need to come to terms with the fact that large populations of people don't fit under the Declaration's umbrella. We need to remember our school lessons and recall the genocide we did learn about, and we need to pay to the parallels and warning signs. We need to be thinking about the world we want to live in, what kind of people we want to be, and what sort of legacy we want to leave behind.
With all that in mind, how are we willing to show up in the world?
Life is rough in these streets, fam. Stakes are high and tensions are sprung. Taking a breath (or twelve) is important. Curling up in bed and crying into a pillow is important. Blasting Jamila Woods’ song “Way Up” is so important. But let us interrupt our complacency and challenge our discomfort. No one is coming to save us. We have to save us.
In our struggle to recognize ourselves as good and kind, we can shield ourselves from the places where we don't shine the brightest. In my journeys into my own beliefs and prejudices, I have found many of the harmful patterns and constructs plaguing the world around me also plague the world inside of me.
Investigating beliefs and tracing where they come from is a key component in combating cognitive dissonance. Asking basic yet crucial questions may open the path to liberation. Questions as basic as, who gets to be free? What gives those people that right? How did each of us come to be in America? What becomes of people who try to come to America now? Is it moral to keep children in cages?
“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” That's also the Declaration of Independence.
How long will we allow this train of abuses to get? It's been running for ages, with no sign of stopping. Wednesday is Independence day, the day a group of white men approved edits on a document freeing this country from tyrannical rule, yet each day we witness a new plot twist in our rapid descent into dystopia.
Whose independence are we celebrating? If we’re paying attention, we know the answer.