On this Independence Day, my go 4th actions include listening to Woody Guthrie, Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony, among others. And to us, to We the People-dom. My July 4, 2013 thoughts are very much like they’ve been on each Independence Day for a long time now. We’re a nation of a lot of very good, caring people who do a lot of good things, but who quite frequently have a very short attention span and a tendency to accept “you have nowhere else to go” and “we’re the greatest nation ever and god loves us best” kinds of pronouncements. In other words, we’re a mixture, which, I think, just means that in many ways, we’re basically like people around the world, though that’s not something well received by many. Somehow we need to be the Best, and one of the most frequent ways we convince ourselves of that Best-ness is by judging others as less than us.
None of that takes anything away from the good, and even courageous, self-less and inspiring, things many have done and continue doing, daily. It does raise needed (in my opinion) questions about how well the U.S. is doing in the “all (not just white, land owning) men (and women) are created equal” thing.
I’ll say again: it’s a mix, with a great deal of good. I think one way we get ourselves in trouble is when the not so good, and worse, are minimized or just ignored. Or redefined by political partisanship.
This year with yet additional confirmation ““ via Snowden, at the moment ““ about the kind of things our Electeds and Powerful do around the world and at home, from indefinite detention, to drones as weapons to corporations are people, this year Independence Day feels … familiar, in a getting worse kind of way.
For some excellent words to read on July 4, I’m looking several places, including to Woody Guthrie, and The “˜Radical’ Verses of “˜This Land is Your Land.’ The video is of Pete Seeger, singing verses usually excluded, deemed by some as “radical,” “un-American,” “communist,” “socialist,” or maybe “Occupy like” or perhaps like those sung by a “treasonous leaker.”
One of the three “radical” verses:
In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?
From a July 5, 1852 speech by Frederick Douglass, via The Nation, which though directed at slavery, seem quite relevant to me: (emphasis added)
What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? …
At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.
Interrupting the all-male centennial celebration on July 4, 1876, SBA walked to the platform and read … , end(ing) with this demand: “˜We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all the civil and political rights that belong to citizens of the United States, be guaranteed to us and our daughters forever.’
For a few contemporary words, and actions, check out Restore the Fourth; Internet Defense League; Stop Watching Us; and Reddit, Mozilla, WordPress, and others plan July 4 protest against NSA surveillance.
From the last:
A large coalition of civil rights and privacy groups and potentially thousands of websites will stage protests on the Fourth of July to protest surveillance programs at the U.S. National Security Agency. …
“˜How long do we expect rational people to accept using terrorism to justify and excuse endless executive and state power?’ actor John Cusack said during a press conference announcing the protests. “˜Why are so many in our government, our press, our intellectual class afraid of an informed public?’ …
The spotlight on Snowden is a “˜big distraction to avoid focusing on the invasions that have actually been occurring,’ added Harvey Anderson, senior vice president business and legal affairs at Mozilla.
There’s much to celebrate, legitimately and gratefully, on Independence Day. I think it is essential, though, today and every day, to consider the words of people like Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, and of Woody Guthrie: “Is this land made for you and me?” Or is it “for” a miniscule number of very powerful and wealthy people, who are actually doing the “making”?