Today is Independence Day here in the United States, the day commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by thirteen of Great Britain’s North American colonies, who would unite and form what is now the fifty United States of America.
Usually, and this will still be the case for many in this country, July 4th will be a day to party with friends, family, and other loved ones, be it through cookouts, parades, a day at the ball game, a venture to the beach, a quick jaunt to a favorite vacation spot… and, yes, fireworks. Perhaps some of us will take the time to appreciate the true meanings of this day and this country, as my WordPress friend The Finicky Cynic so eloquently expresses in this post she put up this morning.
But you’re sensing a “but…” coming on, and there is one: While I do wish everyone will have a safe and enjoyable 4th of July, this year I’m actually hesitant to say “Happy 4th of July” as well, just as it’s always been second nature for me to do so. But let’s face it, not everyone is happy on July 4, 2017. We’re living in a truly scary time right now, with the levers of power maintained by a truly reprehensible man and his sycophants who will seemingly stop at nothing to make America in their own image. And for them, that image is one that doesn’t appreciate anyone who is not white, not male, not Christian, not wealthy, not heterosexual, not cisgender, and not of a Euro-centric ethnicity. Oh, and not politically and culturally conservative.
As F.C. hinted in her above-linked post, there is a lot of irony on a day when everyone’s celebrating the Great American Melting Pot. In these past 6 months, we’ve seen the freedoms everyone is supposed to share suddenly become tenuous, so much so that we’re re-fighting conflicts to keep those rights that we long thought had no need for continuance. Thanks to these conflicts and the accompanying anger and vitriol, we’re right now less a Great American Melting Pot and more a lava-spewing volcano.
The need to remind everyone of our rights and freedoms to be who we are in the United States, on Independence Day and every day, is the inspiration for the following poem. May we never forget that we’ve a wide variety of trees in this 241-year-old forest, so please care for more than just the red maples or loblolly pines… or otherwise, we’ll become a forest of nothing but diseased Dutch elms.
Yes, I’m free to be me
Free to be whatever makes me
Free to be whomever I know I be
Or whatever I want to be
This is the U.S.A.
Where we can live, love, work, and play
And say what we may
In any shape, form, or way
Every single day
And just as I can, you also may
We can love who we desire
We can think how we must
We can say good words of the just
And speak truth to those in power
Who live in ivory towers
It’s not just you and me
But multitudes just like we
People the same age as we
And generations that from us precede
Who came here over mountains and seas
Escaping despair and fear and tyranny
For the chance to be safe and free
You deny them?
You don’t care for them?
Because you don’t look like them?
And you aren’t like them?
And you don’t worship the same god as them?
Really, that’s a bad thing to say
Never forget, never ever forget
That you’re not the only one here
Others love this country dear
We may be black or white
Or Indigenous or Caucasian
We may be cisgender or trans; straight, bi, or gay
Or, yes, came from lands far away
But we’re all here today
Your friends, your neighbors
Even the strangers you walked by today
We’re enjoying freedoms assured of us
Two hundred and forty-one years ago today
Yes, we’re all Americans
And we all enjoy the freedom
To be who we are today
And stay who we are everyday
And that’s something you cannot
And must not
And should not
And, by golly, will not
Ever take away