And We Are Not Free
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for thee but not for me
According to the U.S. Flag Code, there is only one circumstance under which it is allowed to fly the American flag upside down —"as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.” That’s where we are right now as a country. Today, the sun was out, the sky clear cerulean. Tonight, the fireworks will light up our towns and cities. But still, it was a dark day.
A mass shooting at a July 4th parade is perhaps too on the nose. It comes too close to the version of America Republicans seek to force upon us. It is entirely emblematic of what they believe the price of liberty in our country should be.
Nothing about this should surprise us in a country that has refused to reckon with its past or atone for its transgressions.
Eight generations of human beings were enslaved, tortured, and many people murdered in order to bolster the myth of white supremacy. Untold millions of kidnapped Africans were lost during the horrors of the Middle Passage. Families were torn apart, children brutalized, little girls raped by their “owners.”
These centuries were followed by the twelve years of Reconstruction, a shockingly brief time of extraordinary accomplishment—marked by the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments—and tantalizing possibility. But before any of these advancements could take hold, a century of backlash began in which rights were steadily eroded and terror was legislated in the form of peonage, convict leasing and lynching.
America is a broken country. It always has been but by fits and starts we’ve sought to heal. Even so, we have remained more or less broken. For the first time in my life, though, I’ve begun to worry that the damage is permanent, the rifts unable to be healed and the possibility of unity an unrealizable dream.
In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson (slaveholder and rapist of those he enslaved), wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
It’s hard to witness, this unraveling of rights, the ascendance of cruelty, the triumph of the worst among us. It’s all so exhausting, and stressful, and demoralizing. But we cannot let these hateful white supremacist authoritarians win. We can’t let them keep taking things away from us. We must thwart their attempts to replace our patriotism with their jingoism, our empathy with their viciousness, our democracy with their fascism.
There are more of us than there are of them. In these darkest of times, we must never forget this. I am so grateful you are here in the fight with me.