Mother earth will swallow you, lay your body down..."
The words above are from a Crosby, Stills and Nash song. Another day, another time. And before them, Janis Joplin had sung that "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose..."
Freedom is a dangerous word. It's what your adolescent dreams of and what your teenager asserts by violating your rules, common sense, wisdom and domestic tranquility. They are certain that (their) best parents in the world are oppressors who need to be fought with guerilla tactics. Sometimes gorilla tactics.
Ever thought about how the word freedom gets used? Between '03 and '08, it was often used like a spear to impale an enemy we did not really know as well as our own citizens who wondered if we as a nation were doing the right thing. Or doing the right thing all wrong.
How free are you? How'd you get that way? When 90% of the people under the age of 35 have decided to tatoo themselves, did they freely make that choice? Wasn't it those who didn't tatoo who really expressed freedom, the freedom to not follow the crowd?
Independence Hall, Philadelphia, PA. July 4, 1776: white men met for several days and compiled their lists of grievances against King George III of England. They actually had little to say about their vision for a new country except to emphasize their "unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." They asserted that any legitimate government shoudl derive its authority from the consent of the governed.
For all their visionary wisdom, the Colonies' brightest and best could not have conceived that these rights should apply to people of color--any color but white. Oh, and how about the consent of the governed? Slaves were more than governed by the ruling authority. When had they given their consent? What were any such persons to make of the writers' "firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence?"
And how about the charge that King George had endeavored to incite "the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions?" Did they just think that--or did they know that. Wounded Knee hadn't happened yet. But a thousand little ones already had.
A grievance against King George was that "he has endeavored to prevent the population of these States" and that he wouldn't open more land to appropraiton for settlement. As if the land had ever been ol' George's to give away in the first place.
I guess the people already living here weren't people. And neither were the African slaves brought in to do the work of the tobacco, cotton, sugar and rum trade.
When it's good for the economy of the wealthy, all manner of ideas about humanity can be invented. And the people who did so in our Declaration of Independence weren't a bunch of pagans or atheist God-deniers. They were either deists or Christians. We use God to back up our perverted ideas about humanity all the time. But are they the truth?
Jesus said knowing the truth would make us free.
Were the representatives in congress in Philadelphia free? Were they already free in their minds, thus enabling them to declare themselves free on paper? The Continental Army did not yet exist. No formal battles had been fought. And when they were fought, they were usually not very favorable to the Continentals. Lord Cornwallis surrendered to an insurgency that had become more touble than it was worth to the Crown. But that was years away.
To be a part of that insurgency, people were willing to die and did so. Did their death make them free? Or were they already free, thus willing to die? When they were ultimately successful, most of the colonies had absolutely no idea what to do next or how to form and be a nation. It came close to ending very badly.
How many Americans did the Vietnam War free? And from what? By the time that conflict in SE Asia came about, the United States of America had become a big, ponderous political system, though still a relative lightweight by comparison to today. Such systems are like a monstrous machine with exposed chains, sprockets and gear trains. People get caught in them all the time. Does getting caught in the system make anyone thus caught up free? Whom does it free? Leaders from responsibility and accountability? Citizens from responsibility to learn, think and act? Have we actually made Janis Joplin's words come true?
What truth do you know today makes you free? And do you just think that truth, or do you know it? Has it been tested in the face of someone you regard as unhuman? Does it stand up to the humility test?
Humility is always a mandatory safeguard when national pride is on display. It's like the fire extinguishers and buckets of water I hope people have for their fireworks tonight. It's like a seat belt in your car. If you aren't wearing it, it's far too late to put it on when you really need it.
Have a humble American birthday today. Find a humble truth that frees you. And hang on for dear life.