It's difficult for me to reflect on the beginnings of our great nation and not feel conflicted about the way that slavery was allowed to continue, even as our founders were ratifying the Declaration of Independence with their signatures. To me, the celebration of that important document is incomplete without including the 14th and 15th amendments which promised citizenship for Blacks and the right to vote, as well as the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act which backed up the laws with the force of the federal government.
"Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us." said Douglass in his speech to the women in the anti-slavery group, "The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine." he spoke.
Douglass' wasn't condemning the American people as much as he was admonishing them to remember that the nation hadn't yet applied their fine words about liberty, freedom, and justice to the negroes they allowed its white citizens to hold in permanent servitude without any rights of citizenship at all.
It is, in fact, this very contradiction that many Americans ignore as they both celebrate our nation's independence from tyranny and oppression, and continue to tolerate the tyranny and oppression that our nation has fostered in Iraq with our invasion and occupation.
How can we continue to boast of the genius of our own past liberty from the imperialism of the British monarchy while our nation's military is actively oppressing the citizens of Iraq with tightened occupations in Baghdad and Ramadi? How can some Americans be so sanguine about our nation's revolutionary past, even as they blindly accept the repression of those in Iraq who are at the mercy of the false authority we fostered under the heavy hand of our military?
Where is liberty to be found under our perpetual occupation? Where is liberty's refuge from the 'collateral' killings of innocent Iraqis that our government and military obscures behind talk of 'rolling back the insurgency' and 'defeating terrorism? Where is the liberty in the massive round-ups and detentions of innocent Iraqi men, women and children?
Where is the justice in the summary executions in the field by our soldiers of 'suspected' insurgents? Where is the justice in the indefinite imprisonment of Iraqis (many for years) without charges, without access to evidence, and without access to counsel?
Over 2500 American soldiers' lives have been sacrificed for Bush's illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. Thousands of innocent Iraqis were killed in the initial U.S. led invasion which promised "shock and awe' for the television warriors who watched the spectacle unfold. Tens of thousands more would lose their lives as a result of the chaos and unrest the Bush regime had initially encouraged with taunts of "bring them on", and the bluster that "we're fighting them over there, so we won't have to fight them over here."
The world was witnessed to the installation of a U.S. interim puppet authority, and a sham election overseen by our invading military forces. That led to yet another sham authority, using the influence of our occupying army to lord over Iraqis and parcel their resources out to the highest bidder.
Now Americans are being held hostage to an occupation that they are saying (in a clear majority), must end by a date certain. Notwithstanding a reversal of the political balance of Congress, the Bush regime is determined to 'stay the course' and keep the America's jack-boot planted firmly on the Iraqis' necks. But, despite their increasing opposition to the occupation, many Americans will still celebrate our own nation's independence, mindless of the contradiction.
"To say now that America was right, and England wrong, is exceedingly easy." Douglass spoke. "Everybody can say it; the dastard, not less than the noble brave, can flippantly discant on the tyranny of England toward the American Colonies. It is fashionable to do so;" he continued, "but there was a time when to pronounce against England, and in favor of the cause of the colonies, tried men's souls."
They who did so were accounted in their day, plotters of mischief, agitators and rebels, dangerous men." he said. "To side with the right, against the wrong, with the weak against the strong, and with the oppressed against the oppressor! here lies the merit, and the one which, of all others, seems unfashionable in our day. The cause of liberty may be stabbed by the men who glory in the deeds of your fathers. But, to proceed.