“Freedom for all.” Many folks are posting this on this 4th of July. I can’t. And in all honest consciousness, I haven’t been able to for a while. Years ago when I, a science teacher, was told I would be teaching Social Studies, had to read up on the time period I was teaching. Yes, in the United States we have teachers who have no business teaching Social Studies teaching this important subject. And we wonder why citizens have no idea what freedoms they are willingly turning over to a corrupt government? I don’t wonder at all. I found myself doing some research and found that this sentiment, freedom for all, is not true in our country. It has never been true. Our country was built on the theft of land and the genocide of many tribes of Indigenous peoples. That really tells our story. Except it doesn’t completely. There is more. Because we also must add slavery, Japanese internment camps, separating children from mothers at our southern border, bombing civilians around the world, taking over governments so our industries can flourish in their countries. This is our story as a country and like all stories we can only mature when we know them. So today, “Freedom for all” brings much deserved reflection.
When I was in high school I was quite the jock. I ran track and was good at it. I played basketball and wasn’t so good at it. But I was the captain of both teams for both my junior and senior years. I remember my coach in my sophomore year saying that as a team we were only as good as our weakest player. That we couldn’t seek the limelight while others struggled. We had to lift them up. We had to support them and help them. That was how we would be “great”. When I taught that year of Social Studies, I found myself thinking about her and her words, a lot. And I find myself thinking about them today as well.
As a white person I did experience a lot of the freedoms our constitution maintained. Not all mind you. I am a woman after all. I was sexually harassed on jobs while in high school and college. I thought it was just the way it was, because it was the way it was and continues to this day. We have a president who is accused of raping and/or sexually harassing over 20 women. We don’t seem to care. But I digress.
I pass people on the street and see photos of them while they wear their Make America Great Again hats. Men and women alike. Vast majority of them white. And I think, this is great? While we may feel we’ve been great, we’ve only been great for some of us. For those of us who are white, privileged to own a home, live where the schools are good, have access to health care, have the ability to go to college, and get interviews for jobs. But not everyone has this. Our “weakest”, most vulnerable do not have this. So are we really the land of the free if some of us do not have this access or these rights? “We are only as strong (great) as our weakest link.” We cannot claim, freedom for all when it’s not. Our “founding fathers” (or should we call them, our thieving fathers?) were white, privileged, educated, wealthy, land owners after all. And they wrote our constitution.
The other day a friend was telling me about her son being stopped by police. They were doing nothing wrong, not speeding, car in good shape and he wondered why. Then he realized exactly why. The driver, his friend, was black. Driving while black is not the same as driving while white. He witnessed it first hand that day and he was deeply ashamed.
So, while we all celebrate our great country please take some time to reflect on our “weakest links”, those who are not free or granted the freedoms our country is supposedly built on. Because we will only be great when the weakest of us are lifted up and treated as the constitution guarantees.
May the 4th be great…again.
In love, peace, and solidarity,
PS – Work to make this country great. Work to shut the camps and reunite the families.