IFCO-P4P: On this Fourth of July -


Some meditations for this day, as we think on the history and meaning
of the United States
Comment by Frederick Douglass
Thank you, Bro. Zayid Muhammad
July 5, 1852
Comment by a US Pastor,
who has lived many years in Cuba
by Rev. Stan Dodson
July 4, 2021
The bookends of the Declaration that is celebrated today and every July 4th are key to understanding the problems and contradictions of "independence". On the front end, the founders of these United States began their declaration by affirming some self-evident truths: that "all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." On the back end of the document the framers revealed two foundational complaints against the king: "He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages." Read the "domestic insurrections" as slave revolts, and read the "merciless Indian Savages" on the frontiers as the original occupants of the land the founders were stealing.
So, it follows that the endowed right to liberty includes the freedom to conquer, steal, and enslave; these are among the pursuits that made Jefferson and his fellow framers happy. They were not exceptional in their thinking; it seems that these truths have been self-evident to conquering empire-builders throughout human history. Even those "merciless Indian savages" included historical indigenous empires as prone to conquest and slavery as the Europeans. And the threat of insurrection and slave revolt was as much a part of the history of Asian and African empires as that of the emerging new world empire of 1776.
Another common denominator in all declarations of imperial independence is giving a deity credit for the conquest. The destiny is manifest—self-evident, that the cause of expansion is always a righteous one to those who are doing the expanding. It is God, not the devil, who makes us steal land and enslave a labor force to work that land. Alleluia, Amen.
Perhaps these contradictions of liberty and injustice are what caused José Martí, known as Cuba's Apostle of Independence, to be so severe in his critique of the US. He spent more years living in exile in the US than he did in his Cuban homeland, so he knew it well. Among his observations were these: “American laws have given the North a high degree of prosperity, and have also raised it to the highest degree of corruption... Damn prosperity at such a cost! " And "I want the people of my land not to be like this, an ignorant and passionate mass that goes where they want to take it."
Martí's most famous statement of his life in US exile is found in something he wrote not long before he died, a letter to his "silent brother" Manuel Mercado in Mexico: "I lived in the monster and I know the insides of it." Of this, another famed Cuban author, Cintio Vitier, wrote, "Hours before he was killed, the last letter from Martí is amazing: with the independence of Cuba, Martí wants, before it's too late, to prevent the United States from spreading and falling on our lands. Contemporary history, increasingly turned into a planetary struggle against US imperialism, shows that he was not exaggerating."
Perhaps these critiques from Martí and Vitier are what Katherine Lee Bates had in mind when she penned these lines of her famous poem: "America! America! God mend thine every flaw, Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law."
A Comment on today by a historian.
by Dr. Heather Cox Richardson
July 3, 2021
And on July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, declaring: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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."
For all the fact that the congressmen got around the sticky problem of Black and Indigenous enslavement by defining "men" as "white men," and for all that it never crossed their minds that women might also have rights, the Declaration of Independence was an astonishingly radical document. In a world that had been dominated by a small class of rich men for so long that most people simply accepted that they should be forever tied to their status at birth, a group of upstart legislators clinging to the edge of a continent declared that no man was born better than any other. America was founded on the radical idea that all men are created equal.
What the founders declared self-evident was not so clear eighty-seven years later, when southern white men went to war to guarantee that Black Americans, Indigenous Americans, Chinese, Mexicans, and Irish would be permanently locked into a lower status than whites. In that era, equality had become a "proposition," rather than "self-evident." "Four score and seven years ago," Abraham Lincoln reminded Americans, "our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." In 1863, Lincoln explained, the Civil War was "testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure."
It did, of course. The Confederate rebellion failed. The United States endured, and as people of different races, incomes, genders, and abilities began to demand that the nation honor its founding principles, Americans began to expand the idea that all men are created equal.
But just as in the 1850s, we are now, once again, facing a rebellion against the idea of equality, as a few wealthy men seek to reshape America into a nation in which certain people are better than others.
The men who adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, pledged their "Lives, [their] Fortunes and [their] sacred Honor" to defend the idea of human equality, however limited they were in executing it. Ever since then, Americans from all walks of life have sacrificed their own fortunes, honor, and even their lives for that principle. Lincoln reminded Civil War Americans of those sacrifices when he urged the people of his era to "take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Words to live by in 2021.
Happy Independence Day, everyone.
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