This land is our land

2018/07/04

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“This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.”

I have always loved this little patriotic song, even before I learned of its roots as a sarcastic rejoinder to its mawkish forebear “God Bless America.” But as this post’s title suggests, I’m liking it for a deeper reason this Independence Day.

A member of a nerd group I belong to wrote an article (“How to Celebrate Independence Day When You’re Feeling Less Than Patriotic”about the discomfort black Americans feel at celebrating July 4. Our history in this country has been one not of liberty and justice but, too often, fraught with constraint and unfairness. And despite the past 50 years of freedom in the nearly 400-year history of our time in the New World, there remain a lot of enduring effects of the bondage that characterized the bulk of that history.

I thought about it; how would I celebrate?

How SHOULD I?

My answer:

I don’t know how best to celebrate the Fourth of July other than rest in the knowledge that everything great about America is due to the efforts of we whose ancestors survived the Middle Passage.

  • The 13 colonies? Built on our backs. Even though the northern colonies rid themselves of the crutch of chattel slavery (to keep poor white workers from having to compete with unpaid slave labor), they still used the money made from it to build their industrialization and raked in more from earnings made by the South.
  • The first martyr in the revolution? A black man, Crisps Attucks, was leader of the group killed in the Boston Massacre.
  • The Civil War? A cynical power struggle and land grab for both sides until Africans in America ennobled it because it was literally a fight for our freedom.
  • Honest Abe Lincoln’s anti-slavery efforts were sparked and spurred by his correspondence with one Frederick Douglass, former slave and by then one of the world’s leading abolitionists.
  • The first Memorial Day for American soldiers was held by black people, not white Americans, who now revere the holiday.
  • The land of the free and home of the brave? All men are created equal? It was all wind until the civil rights movement stood up to America and said, “PROVE IT.” This, after two world wars fought abroad and a full century after our supposed emancipation.

 

The founding fathers had a good idea, but it, like most everything else folks crow about while praising this nation, would be nothing but empty hypocrisy built on a blood-soaked pile of theft, oppression and genocide but for us.

So I will celebrate the truth that, in all frankness, we whose ancestors survived the Middle Passage and all that followed have more right to call the United States of America our country than anyone. Its greatness is to our credit, not to our oppressors and their enablers.

This land is our land.

(A final note: Unless you are directly descended from indigenous peoples, don’t dare tell us to go ANYWHERE else. You don’t have the moral right.)

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