Most of us tea lovers associate the Boston Tea Party with the 4th of July. The day of American Independence. Decorations abound with Red, White, and Blue patterns everywhere you look. If we scratch below the surface, however, what can we see? In 1912, Robert Haven Schauffler wrote “[I]t behooves us as true Americans to enter the splendid new movement which is endeavoring to make the Fourth over from a day of shallow jingoism and unmeaning brutality and carnage into a day of initiation into the meaning of true citizenship and a festival of deep and genuine and beautiful patriotism.”
Patriotism is defined by Wikipedia as “Patriotism or national pride is the ideology of love and devotion to a homeland, and a sense of alliance with other citizens who share the same values.” With this definition in mind, I have to say that this year feels different for me. When I think about patriotism, I think about pride in America. For the first time in my life, I don’t feel proud to be an American. I feel ashamed. My grandparents, on both sides, emigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900’s. They came from Russian. Poland, and Austria. My maternal Grandmother lost her 4 sisters during the Holocaust as they decided not to emigrate to the U.S. The vast majority of us Americas came from scattered countries throughout Europe and beyond. Some came to avoid persecution while some came to seek wealth, financial independence and freedom.
Leaving British rule over taxation was a worthy agenda at the time but we did it by stealing the land from the Native Americans. Although we have started to right that wrong, Native Americans continue to feel “less than” the rest of Americans. Our next crime was the brutalization of slaves. And yes, we are making progress there as well but ask any African American you know if they feel entirely equal to their white-skinned neighbors. Despite having a black president for 8 years, the prejudice remains in many parts of the country.
Let’s not forget about Japanese internment camps. Racial fears contributed to horrible decisions that were made to protect us from Japanese people, many born in this country and many who later served in the war effort. Yes, the government has apologized, but significant harm was done to so many people. Even then, however, children were not separated from their parents. Today, fear of immigrants has led to over 2000 children being torn from their parents, whose only crime was a misdemeanor. Children as young as 9 months old have been placed in detention centers and foster centers around the country without the ability to be easily reunited with their parents. Who would have thought such a thing could be possible in America in 2018? Why are we not learning the lessons from the past? Each mistake provides an opportunity to learn and hpefully not repeat the past. Why are we not learning these important lessons? I believe FEAR has taken us prisoner. I believe that individually, the vast majority of us are good people. We can’t let our fears take us off course. The State of Liberty, on Ellis Island where my grandparents arrived in this country tells us “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearing to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
On Saturday I participated in a Families Belong Together rally in Portland Oregon. The Washington Post concluded: “Hundreds of thousands of people turned out from coast-to-coast Saturday in “Families Belong Together” rallies to protest the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy and implore their fellow citizens to turn out to vote in November’s midterm elections.” I was particularly impressed with the number of children who participated, carrying signs and singing the slogans. I remember rallies back in the 60’s when we marched against the injustice of Vietnam but WE were the children in attendance. Today, young liberal and conservative parents are teaching their children what it means to be an American.
I believe at our soul, we are a country of inclusion. Our citizens represent the tapestry of nations left behind to come to the “Greatest Country in the Free World” to begin a new life of democracy, liberty, and justice for ALL. Barack Obama sent a recent message to all of us and his words, as always, are important to hear.
“You are right to be concerned”………..”Do not wait for the perfect message, don’t wait to feel a tingle in your spine because you’re expecting politicians to be so inspiring and poetic and moving that somehow, ‘OK, I’ll get off my couch after all and go spend the 15-20 minutes it takes for me to vote’” ……… “Boil it down….If we don’t vote, then this democracy doesn’t work.”
So I ask, as you are sipping your favorite tea this 4th of July, give some thought to who you are as an American and what kind of an America you want your children and grandchildren to live in. Our very future lies with each of us and the choices we make and actions we take today and tomorrow.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Written by Michelle Rabin, speaking for us all.