Independence Day. What does it mean in a nation on the verge of a fascist takeover? Supreme Court justices, themselves appointed by crooked but technically legal politics, have just struck down the independence of half the people in this country. Independence Day for whom? Originally a celebration of freedom from monarchy, one of our political parties has opted for authoritarianism—the objection to which was the very reason the Revolutionary War was fought. The colonists wanted religious freedom, but now we find religiously motivated politics driving the bus off the cliff. If you’re not a white evangelical these rulings are not for you. Your religious freedom has been compromised by politics. So we gather in grassy places to watch fireworks. We celebrate the independence of the wealthy. Those who can break the law and buy the results they want with lawyers without scruples.
I think of Independence Day from the perspective of our Black siblings. Freedom to be shot for a traffic stop or to be publicly strangled to death for petty crime. To be redlined and kept in poverty. Independence from literal chains only to be shackled in bureaucratic ones. Being sentenced to prison for things a white can easily afford to pay off. Independence Day in a nation with over 40 million people in poverty and where just three white men own more than the bottom fifty percent of Americans. Give them fireworks and firearms and let the bottom half work it out for themselves. When is the last time a Supreme Court justice had to worry about having enough for both rent and food? Freedom, those on the top tell us, is not free. Watch the pretty lights. Hear the loud booms.
What of American Indians, still awaiting freedom? What is Independence Day to them? Kept out of sight and in poverty, we don’t want to be reminded. No, we only want freedom to get more for the white man. As a child in the sixties I had some hope that we might be making progress. Freedom and protest were in the air. There was at least hope for some justice. The privileged white leaders now give us a day off work. The wealth can still flow upward, even if we take a brief hiatus from labor. Women, Blacks, the poor, American Indians, and many others who make America what it is are nevertheless denied basic freedoms. This loss of independence at least comes with a light show. Just watch it and be grateful.