Independence - Monday Musing, July 4, 2022
Independence. The annual celebration of the United States’ nationhood is observed as “Independence Day,” which is also called the Fourth of July. It commemorates the passage of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. The Congress had voted in favor of independence from Great Britain on July 2nd, but did not actually complete the process of revising the Declaration of Independence, originally drafted by Thomas Jefferson in consultation with other committee members, until two days later.
Two-hundred-and-forty-six years later, and while we may have gained independence from Great Britain, are we truly independent? Our country was established on a set of ideals, that we would be a grand experiment in democracy, a republic that would seek the welfare of its people. Our country has worked hard to achieve unalienable rights, creating equality as it seeks to become a “more perfect union.” But the trajectory of our country’s founding principles has hardly taken an expansive view, widening the scope of freedom and independence for all of its inhabitants. Total freedom is only enjoyed by a few.
Is there independence for: women who have recently been stripped of the right of autonomy over their own bodies; school educators who are legislatively prohibited to teach about racism and discrimination in our nation’s history; the poor, indigenous, and people of color who face countless examples of racism in a system that rewards white privilege; and transgender people who have been stripped of their rights to seek medical treatment that is needed in order to express their gender identity? Independence for same-sex couples to be in the relationship of marriage for the self-sufficiency and creation of a family of choice are under attack. And rules protecting the right to vote are controlled by the majority, so the minority are unable to exercise their freedom to choose who will govern them. Independence Day for our country where all people are created equal and enjoy “unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?” Not if you are one of the above. But for the straight, white, educated, affluent male, independence means something else.
On June 24th, I posted on my social media page the words of Rev. Martin Niemöller, a German theologian and Lutheran pastor during the rise of the Third Reich, who wrote: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.” Independence Day? Not for everyone. Not yet.
Will we as a community of faith shine the light of God’s love on the injustices that many in our independent country face? Or will we simply enjoy our privileges, freedoms, and pretend that all is well as we enjoy the ball game, parade, and fireworks? See you in church!