By Saswat Pattanayak
Even as President Obama leads the nation into the biggest fireworks show in American history to celebrate the day, the Fourth of July is a stark reminder of American inequalities, not independence.
The independence movement of American republic was not aimed at securing liberty to the inhabitants. American independence from the British Empire was not attained for the indigenous peoples, the black population or for the women. It was an independence that certainly had created a radical series of documents but the departure from the tradition of overlooking the plights of the oppressed has never been done either through inspiration or through implementation. American Constitution to this day of 2009 still does not strive to provide life of equality towards the minorities – the various minorities that actually comprise the majority in this country. And the reasons for celebrations are scant.
Reasons for celebration of July 4th would be uphold the American monopolization of militarist endeavors that has collaborated with their partners in crimes such as India and Israel. It would be to support the interventionist policies of the United States in the affairs of sovereign nations around the world with an aim to subjugate them to corporate blackmailings or annihilations. It would be identical with loftily championing the neocolonial mindset to divide the people along lines of nationalities in the garb of patriotism. What is worse, to declare human beings as “illegal” simply because they are struggling to be granted a citizenship status, often in duress from their own lands being under occupation. They remain “aliens” even while their labor is expropriated for cheap to the huge benefit of the capitalistic society.
And reasons for celebration of July 4th as declared by President Obama is in such a contrast to the reasons for not celebrating it by the great Frederick Douglass, that one cannot help but reject as vehemently the White House statement and embrace the abolitionist’s with as much enthusiasm.
President Obama: “Today, we are called to remember not only the day our country was born – we are also called to remember the indomitable spirit of the first American citizens who made that day possible. We are called to remember how unlikely it was that our American experiment would succeed at all; that a small band of patriots would declare independence from a powerful empire; and that they would form, in the new world, what the old world had never known – a government of, by, and for the people. That unyielding spirit is what defines us as Americans. It is what led generations of pioneers to blaze a westward trail. It is what led my grandparents’ generation to persevere in the face of a Depression and triumph in the face of tyranny. It is what led generations of American workers to build an industrial economy unrivalled around the world.”
Great Frederick Douglass: “Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the American nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery-the great sin and shame of America!….. Fourth of July is a day that reveals to the enslaved, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your 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 the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour. ……Americans! your republican politics, not less than your republican religion, are flagrantly inconsistent. You boast of your love of liberty, your superior civilization, and your pure Christianity, while the whole political power of the nation (as embodied in the two great political parties) is solemnly pledged to support and perpetuate the enslavement of three millions of your countrymen…….You glory in your refinement and your universal education; yet you maintain a system as barbarous and dreadful as ever stained the character of a nation-a system begun in avarice, supported in pride, and perpetuated in cruelty.”
The emotions of Frederick Douglass expressed well more than a century and half ago is still so relevant that it makes a mockery of the American capitalism which is being advanced by the likes of Barack Obama.
Often it is the most oppressed in the nation who can express the biggest truth to its people. The enslaved of the America today have only increased in number, proportion and perpetuity. The biggest economic sector of the United States today in 2009 is unorganized. It comprises exploited nannies, nurses, office assistants, graduate students and millions of non-unionized workers in virtually every field of seasonal employment.
In the largest industrialized nation of the day, manual labor forces exist in abundance that is underpaid and inhumanely treated. Minimum hourly wages and annual poverty rates are abominably low at any level. Prostitution and drug abuse, teenage pregnancy and uncritical education, disparities in healthcare and education system divided along economic lines, police brutality and intelligence infiltration are constant reminders that the independence movement is being carried out on an everyday basis – each time a Sean Bell is murdered or a Mumia is tried in court.
Discriminations at workplaces are so rampant that basic human rights are courtroom dramas every passing day. Largest population of undertrial prisoners in the world suffer in American prisons. Prison-industrial complex continues to exploit slave-labor inside the jails. Constant drug and human trafficking and lack of gun control leads crisis to resurface in such ghastly manner that would trivialize all allegations of foreign terrorism conspiracies. The militarist intervention of the United States into sovereign lands that do not subscribe to White House orders have continued with the Cold War fervor. Innocent civilians world over are targeted and eliminated by American and their allies NATO forces in the pretext of human freedom that is denied to the homeless and uninsured sick people of America right in her community neighborhoods.
Fourth of July is a very significant day in American history. But not so much as a day of independence, as it is a day of critical self-reflection and privilege recognition. A day of acknowledging the deplorable militarization and despicable human rights records of the most vicious empire on the Earth: United States of America.