Fourth of July

This week's editorial is a reflection on the Fourth of July and change.

I am grateful to be visiting family and creating new experiences
with those I love.  This is my first time back to IL during July in a long while.


My fondest memories of this holiday are as a child,
watching fireworks on a full belly
from a grilled dinner and homemade ice cream,
surrounded by church friends and family,
hands behind my head as I stared up at the sky.

This year, we started the celebration a day early

My nephews loved seeing
the connection between
where their food came from
and what their forks picked up;
between catching and eating
their food which "God provided,"
as one keenly noted.

I wonder if we, as a country,
on this Fourth of July,
need to reconnect
with knowing and remembering
where we all came from
in hopes of creating richer meaning and understanding
for our present plate of predicaments, wounds, and heritage.

So many crossed that pond--
some willingly and others bought,
some flat-out ignored.

History is always written
through a lens just as experiences
are always seen through the eye of the beholder.

There is a greater source
of accountability and reality
our ways
do not become
the ways of reality,

Otherwise, without this Greater Source
we may choose to stay blind rather than to see
we may choose to remain deaf rather than to hear.

That is, to see our ways and hear the cries
of those offering a different reality.

If we cannot offer this kind of
radical, hospitable love in the face of difference,
what are we?

Always we will be in great danger
of living a life of denial and out of our woundedness.

Always will these ways of denial and wounds
act to suppress another's true freedom.

True freedom always allows for choice,
which perhaps is the greatest kind of love,
one that is so large it encompasses
the choice of rejection.

This requires great change almost daily.

Nowhere does this kind of freedom
have the opportunity
to arise greater than within relationships
or within a "great nation."

And likewise, nowhere does this kind of denial
have the opportunity
to arise greater than within relationships
or within great nations like America.


P.S.  Here are two different
understandings of what "The Fourth"
has meant to fellow Americans:
the first representative of slaves,
the second of women.

(1) "What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour."

--Part of Frederick Douglass’ “The Meaning of July 4th for the Negro,” delivered on July 5, 1852 in Rochester, New York, at a Declaration of Independence commemoration

(2) "While the Nation is buoyant with patriotism, and all hearts are attuned to praise, it is with sorrow we come to strike the one discordant note, on this hundredth anniversary of our country's birth. When subjects of Kings, Emperors, and Czars, from the Old World, join in our National Jubilee, shall the women of the Republic refuse to lay their hands with benedictions on the nation's head? Surveying America's Exposition, surpassing in magnificence those of London, Paris, and Vienna,1 shall we not rejoice at the success of the youngest rival among the nations of the earth? May not our hearts, in unison with all, swell with pride at our great achievements as a people; our free speech, free press, free schools, free church, and the rapid progress we have made in material wealth, trade, commerce, and the inventive arts? And we do rejoice, in the success thus far, of our experiment of self- government. Our faith is firm and unwavering in the broad principles of human rights, proclaimed in 1776, not only as abstract truths, but as the corner stones of a republic. Yet, we cannot forget, even in this glad hour, that while all men of every race, and clime, and condition, have been invested with the full rights of citizenship, under our hospitable flag, all women still suffer the degradation of disfranchisement."

-- Declaration of the Rights of the Women of the United States by the National woman Suffrage Association, July 4, 1876

I can't help but wonder
if my gay neighbors and friends
have also felt the oppression
of being "less than equal"
(regardless of what faith or belief
one has on the matter);
if the ruling this past week
was any indicator, of course they have.

Perhaps this Fourth of July
in our intimate circles of family or friends,
and in this great nation that claims
to extend hospitality to all,
we may be inspired to be generous
and loving to all,
especially in the midst of difference,
not fearing when those are communicated,
but receiving what there is to offer:
our connection to history and to each other
that "God has provided."

And if we find we are not able to,
perhaps our starting place can be
one of humility and asking why
and embarking on change.