Cross posted from Fukshot
I love the fourth of July. I’m conflicted about parts of it, but uncomplicated relationships are for uncomplicated minds. I loathe the standard fare patriotism and invented right wing history that this date invokes, but the negatives associated with this date don’t outweigh the positives for me.
Historically, July 4 is the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. A bunch of moneyed white men got together to complain about their taxes. That doesn’t sound too unfamiliar. Does it? They selected a passionate writer and speaker, slaveholder, rapist, inventor and rabble rouser Thomas Jefferson to draft a declaration of their distaste for being told what to do by other moneyed white men.
In spite of all his shortcomings, Jefferson penned (literally) the foundational document of the American Revolution and, perhaps more important, the foundational document of what we now think of as social justice and human rights.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [people] are created equal, that they are endowed (snip) with certain inalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
This was a declaration of the rights of people to govern themselves for their own well-being, benefit and purposes. This was the assertion that the rights of individuals were greater than the power of monarchy. This was the beginning of not just the American Revolution, but of many revolutions to come. Over the next fifty years, monarchies all over Europe would fall. Later, the promises of freedom in the Declaration would inspire progressive political thinkers such as Karl Marx and Emma Goldman. It is the promise of the Declaration that inspired abolitionists in the mid nineteenth century in the USA, and anti-colonialists all over the world in the mid twentieth century.
Ho Chi Minh quoted the American Declaration of Independence in his own and sought support for throwing off his French colonial rulers from the United States, who he assumed would be sympathetic because of our history as an exploited colony. Unfortunately, like Fidel Castro, his requests for assistance in establishing independence and freedom were denied and he was forced to seek support from the Soviet Union. The same segment of the Declaration was quoted by the Black Panther Party and they too were seen as an enemy by the US government.
On the Fourth of July, I celebrate the moment at which the political ideals I subscribe to, those of individual freedom and collective effort and sacrifice for the collective good, were set in motion for the first time in a way that is recognizable to people struggling in our time.
Jefferson himself predicted that rights should be ever-expanding and that it would be correct for future generations to look back on his age and see barbaric suppression. We do. I expect the same to be thought of my current ideas in the future, or at least I hope for that.
In the mean time, I also really like fireworks.