The Fourth of July
BY JOSH RESNEK
It is the Fourth of July coming up.
It is my favorite holiday as it comes at the end of June and the beginning of July – at the beginning of summer.
In fact, on the Fourth of July there is much more summer in front of us than behind us. In New England, where the summers are fleeting, the Fourth of July is a moment to savor. It is as if winter is very far away. In fact, it is difficult to believe on the Fourth of July that winter even exists.
It is warm. It can be humid. Sometimes it rains.
This year, we are dealing with a pandemic, the Coronavirus.
The Fourth of July will come and go this year.
The general feeling among the people of Everett and in the cities and towns across this nation is that the virus supersedes the holiday. Many others believe the holiday has been ruined by all the restrictions caused by our response to the virus.
Those of us driving around and checking things out note the yearly display of flags waving everywhere.
Family members and friends are making plans for cookouts and parties although the celebration will be subdued for health reasons.
Block parties and large parties of all kinds everywhere well not be allowed.
Frankly, large gatherings are a bad idea.
There are other reasons the Fourth of July this year will be different from all other years.
The nation is dealing with an uproar about racism, and about police violence against Blacks.
In Everett, there is a growing belief that certain aspects of how the city government functions and that the city workforce are racially inspired creations.
How does this come to pass?
What to do about it?
Many millions of Americans both Black and white have taken to the streets protesting across the nation since the grotesque murder of George Floyd by white policemen in Minneapolis.
We all know this was wrong.
We all know racism is wrong.
We all believe we are not racists – and yet there is an imbalance here and everywhere.
In fact, we are all racists when you get right down to it. How do we rid our society of racism?
No one knows.
Right now, taking the protest to the streets is big medicine. It has galvanized the nation.
Except for the lunatics and thugs causing rioting and damage to property, the protests have been a profound indication that all is right with America, that democracy is still alive, that the people can still be heard.
The Fourth of July 1776 is what that was all about – being heard and growing empowered and taking over our own destiny.
The problem is that when we took over, that is, when the
white intellectuals, businessmen and landowners broke free of Great Britain in 1776, our nation at this early time in its history was stained by slavery.
We were a democracy raising the flag of freedom and inspired by the Declaration of Independence which said, “All men are created equal.”
Why weren’t Black people included in this document toiled over by our Founding Fathers, and believed to be a perfect document?
Black people weren’t included because we were a slave keeper democracy at that time.
Black people were not Americans in the eyes of the Founding Fathers.
They didn’t count.
They were slaves.
The heady wording of the Declaration of Independence made no mention of Black people as having any rights, and they didn’t have any rights as slaves but to be subjugated and buried by the experience.
Many of the world’s great nations past and present, started out as slaveholder democracies.
The Greek Empire was a slaveholder democracy where slav- ery was accepted as an essential practice. Aristotle considered slavery necessary.
The Roman Empire was a slaveholder democracy. Rome’s economy depended on slaves.
The American Empire – our nation until 1863 – was a slave- holder democracy. Cotton was king – for a while in the South. Slaves were needed to maintain the industry.
Until President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in 1863 during the height of the Civil War, the obscenity of slavery’s split the nation.
Lincoln made a conscious decision to denounce slavery, and to put it to an end. He could just as easily have said the nation could survive with it. He knew better. Lincoln was a giant. When one gets down to the bottom of Lincoln’s reasons for freeing the slaves one comes to understand it was because Lincoln demanded that it was time for the United States to wipe out slavery here, to move on without it, to rid the nation of a stain that remains even today.
If he didn’t stand against it, slavery would survive.
If he stood against it, slavery would be erased.
Lincoln turned this nation into a true democracy absent of slavery.
A fast forward to this week in America, to this Fourth of July, let’s take note of a few things.
African American people and all people of color have legitimate gripes about being descended from slavery or having become a part of a nation and an economy that finds white people on the top of it almost exclusively and Black people near to the bottom.
This is a situation that must be righted.
The protests recently go a long way to moving the collective conscience of the nation.
The protests are a powerful indication that American democracy is working. People are challenging the racial norms. Mil- lions have gone into the streets.
The protests cannot be stopped here as the Chinese have stopped them in Hong Kong by strangling protestors’ efforts with restrictive laws and military rule.
Try protesting in modern Russia – in a nation descended from 1000 years of serfdom, where the poorest Russians were traded like chattel with land when it was sold.
How about complaining about racism in Iran, or North Korea, or the Philippines, or in Malaysia or throughout the nations of the Middle-East except for Israel.
The jails in those nations are filled with those who have risen up and cried out.
Not so here.
Free speech remains protected.
As long as free speech is protected here, we rule as the world’s greatest standing democracy.
It is a shame and a stain on our creation that at least eight of our early presidents including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe among them owned slaves and traded them like objects.
It is a crime that slavery did not end in 1863. In reality, things got worse for Black people in this nation who struggled to survive on their own in a place where they were largely looked down upon because of the color of their skin.
Those of us who are real human beings understand as Martin Luther King said: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
On this Fourth of July, let’s all pledge allegiance to do more to honor the flag that waves for all of us and which depicts freedom wherever it is shown.
We are a great people. Whether we like it or not, we are one people.
Happy Fourth of July to everyone.