Independence Day Belongs To The Peacemakers.
Ever notice how America rarely celebrates end of a war but always celebrates start of a war? We don’t celebrate Victory day, but we do celebrate D-Day. We don’t celebrate end of Revolutionary War but we celebrate the day it started. We don’t celebrate end of war on terror, but we all mark its beginning.
One war we do not celebrate beginning or end is the French and Indian War. It is the forgotten war as few who are not in fifth grade even remember The French and Indian war. Even fewer know how it started: George Washington attacked a French fort. Why? We have no idea. He thought he could take it and so he attacked it. What followed was a long and brutal war that claimed thousands of lives. The war also drained the bank account of England. So while King George won Canada from the French, he had no interest in having soldiers based in the colonies as an army in America cost a lot of money.
The war created a lot of land for the colonies. However, that land would not be given to colonies because the British respected the treaties with the American tribes. This angered the colonialists like George Washington who wanted to expand into tribal territories and felt that the tribes had no rights to any land by virtue of skin alone.
At the same time slavery was becoming something that was looked down upon in Europe just as women’s rights was something that Europe was respecting more and more. In Europe women owned and ran many of the salons while American colonies still held witch trials, something that hadn’t been seen in England since the dark ages. There were many female monarchs across the European continent including Catherine in Russia while women held no roles of power in the Americas as the Puritans followed an extremist ideology even by European standards.
So just as cotton, tobacco and sugar was taking off in the colonies, taxes to pay for war were undercutting it. At the same time land was not made available and when the colonialists would go into tribal territory, the British soldiers would not help kill the natives but side with the natives due to treaties. What made things for European Americans worse was an even larger threat: possible ban of slavery by British and women’s rights. These two developments which were clearly on the horizon were going to completely change the profit and life style of the European in a British colony.
What to do? Well, the founding fathers knew the Bible, the read of the Maccabees. So they rebelled. They won with the help of the French and as a result became the first country to define human rights to all white property-owning men over 21 while at the same time deny all human rights to all American natives, all women, all poor white laborers, and all people who had any amount of black blood. Children of the European Americans, their own children could be legal property if they were black and killed if they were American natives.
In a sense, Independence Day of 1776 set off two radical thoughts. One was human rights and independence while at the very same time ending those rights for millions of people in US and abroad. It created two types of people: white wealthy men as those born with rights and all others not born with rights. But that wasn’t all, the new constitution gave these wealthy white men the power to deny rights.
The Bill of Rights didn’t just give rights to people, it gave the power to administer power over people. The separation of church and state would prevent morality of a church to stop murder and ownership of humans that church decried. Thus morality would be absent from having any positive impact on politics. Freedom of speech was not given to black or American natives or women. They could easily be imprisoned or killed for saying the wrong things. However, white men now had the ability to propagate hateful rhetoric without any governmental oversight. Meanwhile the right to own guns and form militia allowed slave owners to hunt down slaves and Americans to murder millions of American natives with no recourse.
In a sense, we have been walking back for the past 250 years to what our nation could have been if we did not proclaim independence. We have been slowly giving rights to women, to American natives, to black people. But the forces that took those rights, continuously chip back at the progress. Each step forward is at least a half step back. End of slavery began Jim Crow. Universal suffrage brought abortion laws. Unions brought outsourcing. Today we see how gay marriage galvanized the right to take a sledge hammer to voting rights and women’s rights.
I am an American. I was not born American and as a result I look at America not as a utopia, not as a child at a parent who can do no wrong, but as citizen of the world who chooses to live here in spite of the faults. I choose to live in this country not only because of the opportunities it presents to people like me, not only because I have familial and friend ties to this land. But because it is capable of change. I live here because I believe that people like me must live in this country for it to live up to its promise.
America is a nation of diversity, of ingenuity, of freedom. The freedom it has was something that I believe the founding fathers did not learn from the bible or enlightenment but from American tribes like the Iroquois who had a democracy. They learned about the freedoms from tribes like the Cherokee who had a Republic. They learned to love this land from the people they actively tried to erase but ideas are much more difficult to destroy than people.
I believe that we are slowly opening our eyes to what the true owners of the land we live on had to teach this world: that this is not OUR land, it is not OUR planet. We do not own this land, we SHARE it. It is not ours in ownership sense, it is ours in a sharing sense.
This land and planet cannot be owned any more than air or time. We cannot own something that impacts all humans. We live and we use and when we harm, when we “own,” we destroy that which is not ours. When one uses that which is not theirs, and destroys that which is not theirs, it is theft. We steal from our neighbors, from our fellow earthlings and from our children.
When we steal rights we take away rights from our children. When we destroy the planet we steal time and prosperity from our children. A nation where a child could be killed if that child was half native or sold if half black, cannot value the life of the child. A nation where the right to own a gun to take land and rights from others does not care if those guns are used against children. A nation that destroys the earth does not care if children live or die.
But that ideology is not the whole nation. The forces of arrogance and selfishness are but part of the land. While the country is often controlled by those who want to end abortion or refuse to regulate hate or instruments of death, the majority of the people do believe in human rights for all people, in peaceful speech and control over instruments of death.
Evil is always at odds with good and it never rests. It is always less numerous but always more powerful. Evil can never be defeated, just pushed aside or repressed for a time. This is the brilliance of Taoism that is seen in the Ying and Yang. Evil is here to stay, it will always be here and it will triumph only if we think that we have beaten it, only if we assume that there is no longer a need to fight.
So on this Independence Day, I will think of the slaves, of the women, of the poor and the down trodden. I will think of the millions killed and the thousands enslaved and imprisoned.
Most of all, I will think of all the progress that was done by those who stood up peaceful and for that audacity were violently killed. I will think of one thing: they may have died, but they also were the only ones to truly live. They were the ones who were truly free, as they did not succumb to fear of the powerful and a desire to simply survive. They lived lives that truly mattered. Because they made this nation the type of place where I would move and live and work hard to make it better than I found it for my children and the children of all those who will come after me.
The most courageous path is not of the man with the gun, but the one who faces the man with the gun to demand peace without a gun. That is the path of the free and the brave.
Note: Notice that I always say American Natives. This is because they are American first while the Europeans in America are Americans second.