A Message for Independence Day
By Joel Price
Reprinted by permission of the author
As we approach the Fourth of July and we anticipate the ubiquitous flag waving, the parades, politicians' patriotic prattle, and sky-filled fireworks, I am reminded that:
It is often proclaimed, "America is the greatest nation ever!" I actually recoil from such ethnocentric, jingoistic assertions. Not because America is not possessed of greatness, but because such hackneyed platitudes ignore the dark, ugly, ignoble aspects of "Americanism."
America was noble when it proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence, "All men are created equal." America was ignoble when, in the same era, it institutionalized slavery in the Constitution.
America was great when it said in the Constitution "(no) person (shall) be deprived...of life, liberty, or property, without due process...". America was base when, at the same time, women had no liberty and were considered mere chattel.
America was great when it said in the Constitution "(no) person (shall) be deprived...of life, liberty, or property, without due process...". America was treacherous when, in the same era, Native Americans were butchered, forcibly converted, and deprived of their ancestral lands.
America was liberating when it Constitutionally banned slavery. America was black-hearted when, within decades, segregation, and "Jim Crow" laws were, in many locales, the legal norm.
America was virtuous when it entered WWII to liberate Europe & Asia and stop the Axis. America was disgraceful when, in the same era, it locked up Japanese-Americans in "internment camps," and its own military the ranks were still segregated based on race.
America was glorious when it proclaimed "marriage is a fundamental human right." America was inglorious when it prohibited intermarriage between blacks and whites and between Christians and non-Christians.
America is glorious when it continues to proclaim that "no person may be deprived of life, liberty, or equal protection of the laws." America is inglorious when it refuses gays and lesbians full and actual equality to enter into marriages.
America is magnificent when it says terrorists shall not cause the US to shy from shining its beacon as a "shining city on a hill." America is malevolent when it imprisons presumptively innocent persons in black prisons and seeks to euphemistically re-characterize and repackage torture as "harsh interrogation."
America is idealistic when it proclaims "Congress (nor the states) shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." America is hypocritical when it demands Christian prayers in public schools and at public events.
America is exemplary when it asserts "Congress (nor the states) shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech." America is hypocritical when it lauds the waving of the flag and seeks to criminalize the burning of such.
America is at its most beautiful when it invites, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore." America is at its ugliest when it revokes that invite by criminalizing and deporting children whose only "crime" was to be born of parents who hoped to provide their children with an opportunity not afforded their parents merely by virtue of being born under different temporal and geographical circumstances.
America, when it pays mere lips service to and blasphemes its own virtues is a mere bully echoing false bravado. But America is grand, glorious, noble, magnificent, exemplary, virtuous, liberating , and great when it lives up to, puts into practice, and upholds its enlightened ideals!
*NB: This commentary was published in the Southwest Times Record online at http://www.swtimes.com/sections/opinion/commentary-america-magnificent-…-sometimes.html.
Although religious compositions made up a significant part of Schumann's works, he was a Pantheist like his countryman, Goethe.