Frederick Douglass, in his speech “What To The American Slave Is Your 4th Of July?“, said

“Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony.”

Sometimes I feel sorry for America. Told from birth about how it is the embodiment of a Dream with a Destiny to fulfill. To be an example to others, that burning light of freedom – a story so mythic that it’s message must be spread from nation to nation.

It’s early childhood proved brutal as it tried to divine its messianic mission. Despite its Puritanical upbringing, it stumbled through the tragedy of the Native Americans followed by the national shame of slavery. Adding to its dysfunctional development were two world wars separated by a Depression, all of which shaped its consciousness and worldview.

The 1960s were like its teenage/college years, filled with rebellion, freedom, experimentation and a searching for itself. These were quickly followed by a cynical wave of disillusionment. By the 1980s, it was taking the first steps toward adulthood and now, despite a brief return to its mother’s basement, attempts to step forward to navigate a new millennium.

Once again, June 19th—Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day as it commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas—went under-celebrated. But I also value the Fourth of July and the dream of the nation and continue to work toward seeing that dream realized. So much has changed since Frederick Douglass’ day, so many things haven’t, but I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

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