Today is independence day 2020. It’s different than all the other independence days that have gone before. For starters, I anticipate more fireworks being shot off for my viewing pleasure right here in the Bronx than in most towns and cities across the rest of the U.S.
And, our country is at a crossroads. I don’t think things will ever be “normal” again. My fellow white people, my fellow Americans, we must take a stand.
Just like that guy in Florida who is happy to catch covid19 for the sake of our flag (you can google that one yourself), I too am ready to die. Not for a flag, but for the ideals for which it stands. And, I’m willing to throw down the gauntlet and say that I love this country more than he does. I love it more than the armed militia groups. More than the people with flags and bunting all over their houses sitting in red, white, and blue folding chairs. More than the white descendants of Thomas Jefferson who voted to ban the family of Sally Hemings from the Monticello graveyard because, and I quote, “I’m not prepared to say to that one of the greatest Americans in history, the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence, was essentially a rapist.”
I love this country more than they do, because I don’t feel the need to live in denial in order to love it. I have chosen not to close my eyes to the history of horror, the murderous policies, the internment camps, the men hanging from trees. I know all this, and yet I still have faith in the rule of law and not the rule of men. I have faith that the rights that are guaranteed in our constitution are not guaranteed BECAUSE of the constitution, but because everyone is born with them already. I believe that the arc of the universe tends towards justice, and that justice is not the same thing as force.
I know the founding fathers were a pack of hypocrites who raped black women and beat black men even as they espoused high ideals. I know Jefferson had the gall to talk about everyone being born equal even as he and his fellows committed appalling and immoral crimes against humanity and laughed at the idea of women voting. I know it, and yet I still believe in the ideas they wrote. All are created equal, and we always have been. That’s the American way. Respect is earned, not by a title, but by what you do. In the core of each of us, we are equal. Queen Elizabeth of England is, at her core, no better (or worse) than the homeless alcoholic picking food from a trash can. That our founding fathers failed utterly to live by these words in their own daily lives doesn’t make me believe any less in those words.
I know my country has invaded the weak and helpless, has used physical force to take land and resources from those unable to defend themselves. I know my country has used its military might to topple lawfully and democratically elected presidents, only to install dictators in the pay of the CIA. I know that my fellow citizens have supported those policies, or have fought and protested to change them, because that’s our right. Sometimes the biggest fight is for knowledge. That, too, is the American way.
Today, I have even more hope. I see so many of my own people who are willing to stand up and be counted. It gives me hope to see the many churches across the land still willing to give food and shelter to Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus because they don’t have a green card and ICE is at the door. It gives me hope that there are people working quietly and anonymously to document each abuse, to stand and change it, to protest or send cash as they can, to help promote justice in ways both small and large. I love this country for those people.
I love the fact that “pursuit of happiness” is a founding principle. You don’t get happiness as a money-back guarantee, but you can chase happiness any way you like. Does it make you happy to go maskless to a big indoor rally draped in a flag, and party like it’s thirteen-ninety-nine? Go for it – I won’t stop you, though I’m hoping some of your friends and family members might try. I love the fact that everyone born here is a citizen, and I hope we can expand that permanently to all on our soil. Let all come here who are yearning to breathe free — and let them keep breathing even if the police show up. In fact, that’s the only thing that makes sense, for a stolen country, which is to try to live up to its ideals. I love the fact anyone – anyone at all – can come here and speak any language and be from anywhere on Earth, and become American. In theory. Now, let’s make it true in fact also.
I love seeing the Bill of Rights apply to everyone. The courts are doing this more slowly than they should and with occasional setbacks, but it is happening. I love the promise of freedom – which is not the same thing as the adolescent cry of “I do what I want!”
So, my fellow white people. My fellow Americans. If you are wrapped in the flag of this nation while refusing to educate yourself, then yes, I love this country more than you do. I love it with my eyes wide open. A friend of mine believes that it is not her job to educate you – that you need to educate yourself. Are you afraid that education will mean you can’t love your country any more? That when you know the truth you’ll be too uncomfortable ? Is that why you let a small subset of our people claim the flag as their own? Some of those people who claim to be patriotic and wave the flag are nothing but a pack of anarchists who reject every idea we hold dear.
Are you going to hang your head sheepishly while they sing anthems and claim ownership of the flag?
I don’t own a flag. I don’t drive a pickup. I don’t wear a cowboy hat or own a gun. I’m urban, not rural. I live with neighbors who don’t need a tutorial from Black-Lexa to understand history. I don’t always support the military, or the president, or those in authority. That’s my birthright, and it’s yours too – even if you don’t agree with me. Even if you are undocumented. Even if your ancestors were both the slave and the rapist . Even if your ancestors tried to spread smallpox to people and stole their land. I’m not always proud of what Americans have done. But I am proud to be an American and to claim kinship with those who came before, and fought before. The tree of liberty is watered by the blood of patriots, so at the very least, use today to take a knee before the barbeque starts.