Monday, July 05, 2010


"To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, 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."
~ Frederick Douglass "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro", 1852

Each July 4th I am reminded of the classic speech made almost 150 years ago, which fully sums up my feelings about self-congratulatory displays of patriotism made whilst the list of crimes is added to on a daily basis by a government representing not its people, but transnational corporations which despise the very ideals that we are supposedly celebrating. Like most people, I want to join the herd and wave the flag in pride, but unlike so many people, my grasp on reality won't let me. I can feel a quick tinge of emotional patriotism when the promise of what this country is about is alluded to, followed almost instantly by a sense of rage because that promise is so tragically unfulfilled.

To the reactionaries that would call me "Anti-American", I ask for a definition of that phrase. I am anti-war, anti-exploitation, anti-corporate oligarchy, and anti-environmental destruction. I don't approve of democratically governments being overthrown by our government because they threaten the profit margin of an influential cartel of international gangsters. If that's what you mean, then yes, I am Anti-American. And proud of it.

Perhaps someday soon this system will be forced to fall under its own weight. It is unsustainable and therefore will be brought down eventually. But what would make me most proud as a citizen of this country, what would make me wave the flag and feel a great rush of pride, would be if "we the people" forced it to fall BEFORE then. Before it had consumed everything in its destructive path. Now THAT would be worthy of a grand celebration!


Greg L said...


I used this same quote on July 4th in a post. It's a classic and is applicable even today.

Black Diaspora said...

Great piece, Ernesto.

In one part of the South in which I lived in my youth, we didn't celebrate the 4th of July.

There were no fireworks, or long patriotic speeches, or parades, or parties.

Looking back, I now find it curious that no reason was given for this obvious suppression of patriotism.

During school assemblies, in our all-black schools, we sang, not the National Anthem, but what has been called the Negro National Anthem, James Weldon Johnson's "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

I don't remember reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, but I do remember that Black History Week (Later to be extended to a month, because that much history couldn't be crammed into a week.) received special attention.

It's ironic that I currently live in an area where the American flag is proudly flying from many homes around me, while mine is packed away in mothballs .

I've flown mine once since living here, and that was when candidate Obama became President Obama.

I haven't flown it since.

And since that time I have found many more reasons not to fly the flag, than reasons to do so.

When Rush Limbaugh found an audience receptive to the claim that Obama is out to destroy this country to make up for what whites supposedly did to blacks, then that became a reason for me not to fly my flag.

When Limbaugh found an audience receptive to the idea that Obama, by virtue of him being black, presents a different brand of patriotism than whites, then that became another reason for me not to fly my flag.

Limbaugh's pandering to the racial divide, and thereby widening it further, is being more than an entertainer, he's creating a powder keg of racial tension, one that won't take much to ignite.

This he's willing to do, for what? Money?

You are the "true American." You want to see the American ideals to which all say they subscribe to, come to fruition.

You're the "true patriot." You see the country as it is, and say it can be better, much better.

The Rush Limbaughs of this country are neither "true Americans," nor "true patriots."

They prosper by dividing the country along racial lines, and, in so doing, they separate patriotism from patriotism, and what it means to be American.

"Perhaps someday soon this system will be forced to fall under its own weight."

For me, it can't come soon enough. I'd like once more to resurrect my flag, and let it wave proudly in a patriotic breeze.

Ernesto said...

Greg, I wish someone would re-enact this speech in a place of national prominence every 4th of July until it's no longer applicable

Ernesto said...

BD...I am in perfect harmony with your feelings about flying the flag and your expression of what it means to be in exile in your own country. Yes, we are the truly patriotic. We are the ones who most fully appreciate what this country can be, but refuses to be.

"In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.”

If you are not willing to do what's necessary to achieve it, you won't get it. And you won't deserve it. To me, the flag, as flown by your neighbors and mine, is a symbol of repression, a reminder that we have to seize that symbol and make it our own. As always, your words serve as an inspiration, my "warrior in exile" friend. :)