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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- - Happy 4th of July! (mkandcompanyinteriordesign.wordpress.com)
- Is America more exceptional today than in 1776? (salon.com)
- The Final Fourth: An Inspiring Story of Brotherly Love – Huffington Post (blog) (huffingtonpost.com)
- Fourteen Pieces of July 4th Trivia (ecosalon.com)
- 4th of July: Nine Myths Debunked (news.nationalgeographic.com)
- Happy 4th of July (panokroko.wordpress.com)
- My declaration on the 4th of July (craigconsidinetcd.wordpress.com)
- Happy Fourth of July Fit Ones! (fitchicla.net)