Happy In(ter)dependence day
Yesterday was July 4th. It it as day that I have always enjoyed with some degree of discomfort. While I love fireworks and a good summer time barbeque, I feel pretty uncomfortable with it’s premise. It is a holiday that seems to take only what we want and glaze over the rest. While it celebrates the beginning of our liberation from tyranny, it forgets the subtext, that those decrying tyranny benefited from slavery, perhaps the most hideous example of tyranny, and were living on land stolen from a people they genocided. We forget all of that and instead herald The Star Spangled Banner and rugged individualism and freedom, then wrap it all up into this hot dog eating, illegal fireworks loving (which, just to clarify, I do love!), beer-chugging, stars-and-stripes donning holiday.
But then again, I like to take a page from the astrologist Caroline Casey, who reminds us of the archetype of the coyote. In many cultures, the coyote is a symbol of the playful trickster who redeems all through his guile and games. To me, the archetype of coyote is a reminder to let go of being grumpy about the things I do not like in the world and take another look. Use some spiritual ji-jitsu and see if there is a way I can twist them around to something that serves all of life.
And from that lens of, it is pretty darn easy to get behind the 4th of July. This day is about declaring Independence from the monarchy of England. Our American ancestors wanted to start a great experiment in Democracy, to see if we could hand the power back to the people and create a society with equality and freedom at it’s center. This day is all about self-rule, letting communities reclaim their power and their right to self-determination and local empowerment. It is a large and proud stake in the ground for democracy, a stubborn belief that the people should have the power.
Anyone who has been a community organizer can tell you that self-governance depends on a well informed, mobilized, engaged group of people. Such a group starts with community and connection and love of the place we are in. It starts with pot lucks and meeting your neighbors and being in public spaces. It is about knowing who you can ask when you need a jump for your car or a cup of sugar. July 4th, as the stake in the ground for democracy and community that it is, is really Interdependance day.
This day is also about Patriotism, love of our country. Again, this is an idea I can really get on board with. Dr. King said that justice is love made public, so if I am going to love this country, I am going to fight for justice for all of those who live here. This is vital when we consider that almost half of the people in our country our non white, and that a growing portion of the country openly identify as Queer or transgender and that, this year, half of public school children in the US live in poverty. Yea, I can love this country. I can love my black and brown and queer and poor sisters and brothers. I make that love visible.
So last night, as I listened to the glorious sound of illegal fireworks, going off in quick torrents before they are squealshed by the police, I though to myself: Happy 4th of July everyone! Happy day of democracy and community empowerment and love for each other and love for this beautiful place we get to live in. Let us make every day, not just July 4th, a celebration of those vital and reverent qualities.
If, you need a little more inspiration, watch this fantastic video, complete with burly guy who makes you think he is in the Marines. Patriotism at it’s finest.
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Note: In the original publication, I wrote that over half of US school children live in poverty. I forgot a very important word, which is that over half (51%) of public school children in the US live in poverty. I apologize for the inconsistency, and have corrected it above (and thanks to my friend Joey Smith for bringing it to my attention!). That statistic is from a recent Atlantic Magazine article about education in America. You can read it here: How Kids Learn Resilience It is a fabulous article that is definitely worth checking out.