America’s great super power is storytelling. We tell ourselves some great myths which allows us to accomplish great things. Many an observer of the nation throughout history has noted this peculiarly of our nation. We really are a headstrong teenager, thinking we are invincible with limitless potential.
Like any good myth, however, there were half-truths holding up that belief-system. This nation was not only built on the backs of the Founding Father’s ideas of a great system of democracy, but on the strength of horrible oppression of millions of Black people for generations and the exploitation of countless Indigenous people.
Today marks the day we celebrate the nation’s independence from Britain. The founding document was filled with big promises and high concepts that were new and in vogue at the time and even radical. We can acknowledge its significance and also recognize its limitations. The men of 1776 were thinking of land-owning, free white men when they wrote “all men are created equal”. Many people fought and died before women, and Black people were allowed the same.
The entrepreneur Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, which revolutionized the nation and made way for the Industrial Revolution. That cotton he was ginning was planted, picked, and shipped by slaves. King Cotton, the backbone of the Southern and Texas economy was built on slave labor.
The vast swaths of land of the midwest, southwest, and west coast was taken by force by the government, or through guerilla and mob tactics. Americans bullied non-whites across the continent, and later in the Pacific for their land often with deceit, ethnic cleansing, and genocide as the tools.
Later, America has engaged in coups, gave money and arms to dictators, killed civilians, experimented on Black people, tried its hand at eugenics, and inspired Hitler.
America is not the place we pretend it to be.
Take pride in your nation, wear the colors, enjoy your family and fight for the idealized version of the country. We can make it the land of our dreams, of our myths, of our fables. We start by righting the wrongs of the forefathers — pay reparations to descendants of slaves. Grant statehood to US territories. Acknowledge our evils. Make amends. Dismantle the police state. Make peace with ourselves. Make America a place where we all can thrive.
Happy Independence Day.