This year’s 4th of July came suddenly, like a boulder crashing down a mountain. The mountain stands as a symbol of the hierarchy of power and privilege built over centuries in the country we call the United States. The myths of meritocracy and equal opportunity are falling, much like the statues of one time heroes exposed to the light of historical truth.
Over time, rocks, falling debris and even landslides have come and gone over this vast land. They were revolts and rebellions the result of stolen lands and broken treaties of our native sisters and brothers, the enslavement of African peoples ripped from their homelands, the forced labor and horrific working conditions of Chinese and Asian immigrants whose bodies were strewn along the tracks of the transcontinental railroad, the internment of Japanese US citizens during the second world war, and the COVID 19 virus and environmental degradation impacting communities of color in devastating ways even as these words are written.
What does it mean to live in the land of the brave and the home of the free? What has it ever meant and at what cost? Are the most vulnerable among us free from want and free from fear? Are the undocumented workers who risked death by escaping from terror, violence and poverty and serve us by planting and harvesting our crops, who keep our dairies running, tend our landscaped gardens and work as domestics under the table in households of wealth and means really here to live on the dole? Do we need a border wall to keep people out or a better means of welcoming people in?
Could it be a rumble of something much larger that’s shaken us viscerally by the violent murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis? Perhaps it is the names of so many other unarmed victims, male and female, young and old, gay and trans, all black, that are making us rethink the meaning of this holiday. Perhaps it is the large gatherings of everyday people taking to the streets to demand justice and equal treatment in our courts, our schools, our segregated neighborhoods and places of worship. Perhaps it is our dissatisfaction with a political leadership that is exclusionary, having lost its way as model for other nations to strive toward.
Whatever it is, I say YES. This is the moment to seize. It is time to re-envisioned the 4th of July. Rather than celebrate Independence Day, a privilege afforded to the very few, what we really yearn for is an Interdependence Day. It would be a day in which we own our past, reckon with it, value the diverse contributions of everyone, and turn the promise of our founding principles into the reality of true democracy .