Thoughts on the Fourth of July
What does the Fourth of July mean to you? I am a proud citizen of the United States of America with a keen understanding of and deep appreciation for the unimaginable struggles, courage of convictions and ultimate sacrifices required to boldly envision and build the foundations of freedom, of democracy, of this great nation unlike any in the world — against all odds, pressures, norms and societal structures. Yet I feel a strain of celebrating our independence at a time when the federal government is literally holding thousands of innocent human beings in cages within our borders, when millions live in fear of violent deportation from the land they call home, when the full promise of this revolutionary country created around radical ideas by diverse immigrants is excluded from too many, like those living on this very island of Puerto Rico. Frederick Douglass’ powerful, poignant, painful words of “What to a Slave is the Fourth of July?” ring far too true today and always — around the dire need to expose the blatant mockery, irony and hypocrisy of this nation; the shameful, hideous, revolting conduct and cruelty and injustices; the critically important role of wrath and fury and anger; the criminal disgrace, scandals and coverups; and the urgency to shake individual and collective consciousness if we desire to even attempt to live up to our nation’s purported values, albeit amid long-fettered progress. Still, I too “do not despair of this country,” find sources of hope in the unlikeliest of places, and recommit to go forth in solidarity with drive, with tenacity, with spirit, with resolve. I feel profoundly grateful and truly privileged to have been born into, hold citizenship from, and reside in a country where equality, justice, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are real opportunities for many; where we can exercise freedom of speech, of press, of assembly, of petition to ensure the dream is open to countless more; where representative government of, by and for the people is a fundamental founding principle; where strength is derived from the beautiful plurality of faces, of backgrounds, of languages, of faiths, of genders, of loves, of expressions of patriotism; where we fight freely, safely and proactively to achieve, expand, protect and defend the common humanity and inalienable rights of all. May that be our life work and humble legacy.