4 July 2015
Dear America (circa 1786),
Today is your 239th birthday and in all honesty, you don’t look a day over 10. Things here in 2015 for the most part look very similar to the nice bright-eyed childhood you remember. There are still some folks who are all up in arms over taxes being used for a war they don’t support; and there are still some folk’s bent out of shape over not having a voice/vote in Washington (we no longer meet in Phillie). Just as it was in 1776, the United States still pays lower effective tax rates than most industrialized nations and just like 1776, people still think it’s too high. Oh, and guess what….we still have a problem with the 99% versus the 1%- go figure?
We still waffle around the idea of immigration and each new wave of immigrants are alienated and used as a scapegoat for economic and social woes. Same old, same old. Slavery was undone after a civil war about 150 years ago and the product of that was the former slaves were made free. This was followed by about 100 years of explicit and direct racism, and then we had some civil rights movement, which replaced the racism with institutional racism. The perk to this new breed of racism is it’s much easier to ignore, and the drawback is that it’s easier to ignore. We have systematically found a way to use the justice system to incarcerate mass amounts of African Americans and people accept it — slowly cementing the idea that African American = Criminal into the core of American ideology. I mean it is not like we are enslaving them, their shackles are from bad behavior (that we objectively define at whim).
Remember back in 1776 when y’all used religion as a means of promoting the idea of rebelling against England? Encouraged the masses to fall behind a political movement out of obligation to their morality and God- for duty. Inalienable rights? HA! You would not believe it, but people still fall for this shit. And more so, because of that old declaration of Independence and your claims of rights endowed by our creator, they confuse duty to God as being intrinsically aligned to duty to the state. Craziness, I know. Oh, and remember back when Thomas Jefferson came up with the brilliant idea to replace John Locke’s trinity of Life, Liberty and Property in the Declaration of Independence to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness in order to avoid the awkward conversation of having to explain why slaves, as humans alike, were not allowed to own property. Well let me catch you up on that: in 2015 African Americans still own significantly less property, we still dogmatically champion the concept of private property and — if you can believe it — people don’t even try to authentically pursue their own happiness. If this was meant to be some sick joke- I am not amused.
I imagine you must be wondering how we are doing as a country. As a more perfect union and all. Let me brief you on how we compare to our industrialized counterparts:
- We rank towards the bottom in education
- We rank towards the bottom in quality of healthcare.
- We rank towards the bottom in wealth equality
- We rank #1 in calling ourselves #1
- The government passed legislation that has infringed on the 1st, 4th, 5th, 8th and 14th amendments. But apparently we only like to bicker over the 2nd and 1st.
- We have amassed large sums of debt, most of which is to a country that is expected to surpass our economy in 2016…that may be a problem.
- There were two HUGE world wars in the 20th century that lead to 137 million deaths- this makes the 100 million human sacrifices used in the process of colonizing America seem, like, uhm, foreshadowing?
Ok, sorry, that got really dark. Lets move on to a lighter topic.
Just as John Adams wished, we celebrate every July 4th with fireworks and celebrations that stretch from coast to coast- he’d be so proud. Everybody changes their Facebook status, photo and cover photo (I know you have no idea what I am talking about, but just go with it) to something patriotic- American Flags, Bald Eagles and images of Fire Works. I know Ben Franklin was not happy with choosing a bird of prey as our national animal, but ironically, its been quite fitting to our national personality- but I don’t have time to get into foreign policy.
In addition to boasting national propaganda we celebrate your birthday by waving flags (87% of which are made in China), blowing up Fireworks (97% of these are also made in China) and eating processed meats (leading to metabolic syndrome and cancer (this is why we kick ass at poor health, but we are dying for Freedom, so its ok)).
As you take a deep breath and hope I didn’t put 239 trick candles on your cake, I want you to think long and hard about what you wish for. What does the wild-eyed young America wish upon it’s matured self? But remember if you tell me, it won’t come true. I have thought long and hard on what to buy you for your birthday…the country that has everything and all. And I have discovered the one thing you are truly missing. I give you the gift of humility– use it wisely.
I know this letter may come off as cynical or offensive and perhaps my opinions could be framed as unpatriotic to some. But I ensure you that I speak from a place of love. The process of building and maintaining America has been forged in blood and, henceforth, if we want to truly and profoundly honor the sacrifices that have been made we should hold our nation accountable for its faults and demand the perpetual pursuance of discovering the essence of human freedom.
P.S. If this has made you sad, then remember you can always relish in another Fourth of July tradition- you can get DRUNK! And to my dismay, we do not lead the world in alcohol consumption- Europe has us beat by a long shot. However, we kick their ass in alcohol related incarcerations.
1. Half-dozen or so random web searches and Wikipedia
2. Blind faith that one day We Shall Overcome
Note: this blog was revised from a post published on 7/4/14