Here’s to the Fourth!

Independence Day!

Independence Day! (Photo credit: CR Artist)

Today, it’s sunny and warmer where we are. I saw people shopping for their fresh corn and watermelon as early as 7:30 a.m.  People are walking around in shorts and sandals.  This afternoon, many families will have prepared their traditional 4th of July fare with the barbecue grill in full throttle, the pies baking in the oven emitting warm sweet flavors, the kids running around the yard, and everyone milling around with drink in hand and sunscreen slathered on bare skin.

So, what does today mean to us?  I toss this around in my head and I can’t help but remember a segment from Bill Moyers & Company that aired on NPR a few days ago, “Confronting the Contradictions of America’s Past.”  You see, when I was in 5th grade, our elementary curriculum had an entire school year devoted to American history.  This changed dramatically the following year when the Department of Education in the Philippines revised the educational curriculum.  But, for us fifth graders at the time, we learned a very sanitized version of American history.

Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jeffe...

Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson writing the Declaration of independence (1776) were all of British descent. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember being able to recite from memory large portions of the Declaration of Independence as Thomas Jefferson had written it.   Also, the Gettysburg Address that Abraham Lincoln so famously and eloquently delivered at the end of the American Civil War.  I can still recite the lines in my head after all these years.  (I was such a nerd!)

Many things have changed since those days.  Many a US politician has invoked the precepts, behests, and strife of America’s “founding fathers,” if only to suggest kinship with their cause.  And yet, many things have not really changed, especially if you venture to certain states.  All men are still not created equal in some people’s eyes and minds in this country.  Not everyone has been endowed with certain inalienable rights.

I ask myself why there is still so much passion and emotion over this.  Why do people use  their religion, their conservatism, even quoting selectively from the bible to justify condemnation of groups — women, people of color, religions other than Christianity, LGBT.  Where in the world do we have people who, to this day, after having elected the first African-American president four years ago, are still questioning his American birth or claiming him to be the devil incarnate because of his skin color?  What progressive, affluent, and considered modern country does not treat its women equally?  Nor gays and lesbians?  Nor people of other religions?  What other powerful country in this world can’t even provide its citizens with decent health care, a basic need, as basic as law and order, as roads and city lights, as garbage collection, energy and water?  Sadly, only in this magnificent country.

Rainbow American flag promoting equality for e...

Rainbow American flag promoting equality for every American. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then I listened to Bill Moyers interview of Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and former professor at Indiana University, and I got curious.  I started doing my own search.  I looked up Thomas Jefferson and the other earlier presidents of the United States.  I looked up Jefferson’s publication, “Notes on the State of Virginia.”

No wonder Americans today are so confused.  So divided.  So dysfunctional.  These “founding forefathers” themselves lived such contradictory lives.  They espoused equality but they had slaves to maintain their comfortable lives.  Were they hypocritical or were they victims of their time?  Were they guilty of “do as I say, not as I do?”

In Jefferson’s book, you will see how he rationalized this contradiction by positing that non-whites, specifically people of color are inferior to whites in the endowment of body and mind.  This was the justification for enslaving a race while at the same time, declaring “men are all equal.”  What “men” are referred to here collectively?  Wow, that was difficult to swallow.  I admired the man when I was young, and naive.

English: A chocolate cake during the 4th of July

English: A chocolate cake during the 4th of July (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a land of immigrants.  If you really think about it, this land originally belonged to Native Americans, a population that has been reduced by, really, genocide (let’s call it what it really was), to small reservations, to live such horribly undignified lives, being subsidized, tolerated, but marginalized, when really, they owned this land.

And so, for us more recent immigrants, Hispanics and Asians, we have to bear the brunt of exclusionists.  Asians have been here for the longest time, though. But, Asians were invisible.  So were the Hispanics. We did not enjoy the same rights and privileges until recently. But with our numbers increasing, we are now a force to be reckoned with.  Just look at the latest results published by the Pew Research Center.

English: The Lincoln Memorial during a firewor...

English: The Lincoln Memorial during a fireworks show on the American Independence Day (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For my part, I will celebrate today, as a family day. As a day to enjoy the great California weather and the abundant fresh produce, the smoky savory flavors wafting from the grill, a glass of wine (sorry, I can’t really drink beer!), and some great conversation.  Maybe we’ll even venture out of our lawn chairs and watch the fireworks.

This entry was posted in American History, Declaration of Independence, Equality, Fourth of July Holiday, gays and lesbians, July 4th, Race and Gender Issues and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Here’s to the Fourth!

  1. I agree this is a land of immigrants. Every color should be equal under the “red, white, and blue,” with green card or without green card. 🙂

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  2. Pingback: Weekly Image Of Life: Of Dreams And Freedom | this man's journey

  3. The truth can be raw if not painful. May we never forget these, “This is a land of immigrants. If you really think about it, this land originally belonged to Native Americans, a population that has been reduced by, really, genocide (let’s call it what it really was), to small reservations, to live such horribly undignified lives, being subsidized, tolerated, but marginalized, when really, they owned this land.” As an Asian working in the medical field like millions of other Asians and Hispanic healthcare providers, I can totally relate when you said, “Asians have been here for the longest time, though. But, Asians were invisible. ” Invisible, a word tolerated and ignored by so many people today. Sometimes I still feel that I can call myself American based on citizenship but never fully feel American. I thought it was just me but I see it more and more everywhere around me and the media. May every Independence Day, we all get to be reminded of the many rights and freedom we are yet to achieve “for all” and not just for a privilege few. Freedom and equality is for everyone regardless of race, sex, social status…Thanks for sharing a very honest post!

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  4. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    Hypocritical… or victims of the time – a good question. I think they were hypocritical though. Anyone & everyone can say ‘free the slaves’ from comfort & safety, but if freeing the slaves meant losing your servants…. hmmm.
    This was a great post. I’ve enjoyed all individual takes on the 4th of July that I’ve read. It really gets you thinking!

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  5. eof737 says:

    ღ˚ •。* ♥ ˚ ˚✰˚ ˛★* 。 ღ˛° 。* °♥ ˚ • ★ *˚ .ღ 。*˛˚ღ •˚ ˚ Happy Independence Day Greetings! ˚ ✰* ★˚. ★ *˛ ˚♥* ✰。˚ ˚ღ。* ˛˚ ♥ 。✰˚* ˚ ★ღ ˚ 。✰ •* ˚ ♥

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  6. Hope you’re having a wonderful 4th of July!

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