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Happy 4th of July Weekend from the Only Democracy?

By Jesse Bacon

As a rural-raised revolutionary, I love the 4th of July. It is a great time for community gathering, it celebrates a successful uprising against the largest empire in the world, and it involves staring up into the sky with wonder. Though I used to need hearing protectors as a fraidy-cat kid, and as an adolescent had to endure my aunt labelling the squiggly fireworks “Sperm!” I have remained a critically patriotic fan of the day.

‘ But as I studied movements around the world, it was so painful for me to learn how many independence movements had been inspired by ours, only to be opposed by the government that is the inheritor of that legacy. The classic example is Vietnam, that found the United States was willing to destroy their country rather than allowing it emulate ours in their own fashion and choosing. So while I have no need to globalize the specific local traditions of blowing and frying things up, nor do i desire people adopt the specific clauses of the Declaration of Independence (especially the one where the Americans complain King George is impeding their ethnic cleansing of the native inhabitants), I would hope this is the 4th where we finally find a way to support interdepedence and freedom for all. We’re not the only democracy, we just act like it.

For some final humility for us American democracy activists, here are the words of the enslaved, then self-liberated, Frederick Douglass

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?

I answer: a day that reveals to him, 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 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.”

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Written by

JESSE BACON (Philadelphia) is a freelance activist and father. He has a Masters in teaching from Roosevelt University in Chicago. He is an observant progressive Jew, and is trying to be a good ally for Palestinians and all dispossessed peoples, while staying true to the best traditions in Judaism. He visited Israel and Palestine in 1996, 2001, and 2002. He served for three years on the local steering committee of Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago, and one year on the board of Pursue the Peace in Seattle. Read his posts here.

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