in 1852, frederick douglass asked this question in what has been called his greatest speech. here is an except:
"what, to the american slave, is your 4th of july? i answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. to him, you celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. there is not a nation on earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the united states, at this very hour" to read the speech in its entirety click here
today i ask the same thing. here in 2008 we are still slaves; most of us. we are slaves to our appetites for consumptions, to the expectations of our friends and family, to our insecurities, slave to the propaganda created by media spin, slaves to labels or race, class, gender, sexuality, education, political affiliation and many others. the difference in our enslavement though, and that of my ancestors is the acknowledgement of it.
we truly believe that the united states of america is the greatest country in the world. despite our failing education system, the depletion of social security, lack of health care, and poverty that seems unexplainable for a nation with our wealth; we can always point to countries in the third world and feel superior. and today is the day to do it with grand opulence with flags raised and steaks on the barbeque without really considering what we are celebrating. by participating, we are celebrating this nation's history of violent oppression and exploitation of all those not originally considered "american." for this nation to live up to its promise, we must acknowledge the ways that we have and continue to gain our position on the world stage; by brute force with no regard for those who may become collateral damage, even when they are our own citizens.
now some of you reading might be asking me why i'm here in the united states if i have so many problems with the way things are done here. don't worry, as soon as i finish school, learn dutch, and get a work visa, i'm off to the netherlands or maybe switzerland, or maybe london! but back to the point, i am not unpatriotic but i do want for this nation to live up to its claim to be the greatest nation in the world, but taking better care of its citizens and doing more to help those in other nations that are less fortunate, often because of some actions we've taken.
so for me, today is like any other friday, a day of work, trying to find a way to make things better in any small way that i can, because i'm sure that the agents of babylon aren't taking the day off, so neither will i