Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Proposal for July 5th

Some of you may have the day off today, but a lot of us went back to work and settled into our usual routines. Fourth of July over. Little paper bits left from fireworks dotting the grass, pavement strewn with ashes that dripped from the ends of sparklers. Hangover headaches while staring at computer screens. Trash cans full of paper plates.

On the 4th, we celebrated a great moment in humanity's rise toward justice. Men who were oppressed struck out for freedom. They were men who didn't necessarily view all people as equals. After all, justice moves in fits and starts.Yet  their declaration was a bold one in a world of monarchs.

We memorialize that day with parties, fireworks, barbecues and beach bonfires. And it's right to celebrate a great triumph.

For some of us, however, these festivities leave a bitter taste. Because the promise of that declaration has yet to be realized. On that day, men declared themselves free.

Today, so many leaders believe that freedom is theirs to grant, a gift that they bestow as they choose - to the continent's native population, to women, to immigrants, to people of races different from theirs, to homosexuals, to the elderly and sick. They think they can grant the rights to the earth, to a voice, to health.

I say that we should celebrate on July 4th, and on July 5th we should reflect: in the coming year, what will we declare? How will we spread freedom? How will we include more people in the independence and self-determination that was declared in 1776?

What if July 5th was holiday for introspection and taking stock; we celebrate the triumph of July 4th, and on July 5th we consider the work yet to come? We decide what America CAN be and what we will do to make it happen. We create little revolutions, because the greatest lie that conservatives tell us is that we should live in the world that the Founding Fathers did. Those men were world breakers. Out of the brokenness, they created something new. If they were alive today, do you think they would be content to try to live the letter of a document written 200 years earlier?

To rise toward justice for all people, regardless of all the "isms" and adjectives that hold us back, will never be easy. It will hurt. People who benefit from injustice will lose their advantage. We will feel confused, terrified even. There will be loss. And yet, we will never be our best until we know that we cannot grant freedom to anyone, but that I and my neighbor can be free side by side.

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