KNOWING INDEPENDENCE (FREEDOM): DO WE?
A commentary on the July 4th holiday
© PJ Hayward 2014, New York
1. Freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others
synonyms: See freedom
1. the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.
2. absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government.
3. the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.
synonyms: See liberty liberation, release, deliverance, delivery, discharge
July 4th! All around us people are stocking up on bags of charcoal, stuffing their freezers with ribs, chicken and burgers and piling up fireworks for the great celebration!
But something is missing…..at least I feel something missing.
In 1776 Americans were feeling oppressed by the British and we were tired of being forced to do their bidding. We were strong Americans! “FREEDOM!!” we cried! “REVOLUTION!!” And so a revolution was born and in 1776 America declared its independence from England. By most accounts, we won that hard fought war in 1783.
But who was free?
The newly formed United States of America would have an economy that depended hugely on the financial benefit afforded by the employment of the thousands of already enslaved peoples brought to this country against their will. Men and women torn from their loved ones, children ripped from their mothers’ arms, all carried from their homeland in shackles and chains, stuffed into dark, filthy, stifling cargo holds like so many pieces of meat. Many never survived this Middle Passage and were unceremoniously tossed overboard – just a snack for the hungry sharks waiting in the dark water below.
Do we remember that on Independence Day?
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, John Hancock, Patrick Henry and many more – all were slave owners. And they remained so after America won her independence from England.
Do we remember that on Independence Day?
Do most of us even know about that? I am quite sure every person of color in this country knows about those Founding Father slave holders but what about Non Colorized America? Would they be shocked – or even surprised to know about that… or would many of them even care about that??
Now, it is known that slaves had many secret ways to communicate among themselves. All sorts of methods were used to pass information between each other or from one farm or plantation to the next. Codes were transmitted via song, dance, stories, quilts hung on fences for all to see, and so forth.
Also, in spite of every oppressive, dark, hard and cruel thing the slave master visited upon his slaves, there were those slaves who managed to Rise. Those who reached into that place of strength held deep within some dark and secret hiding hole of the heart. They managed. They learned to read and write. They learned skills and trades. They Rose – sometimes before Freedom and many, many of them after Freedom. But they took the seed of knowledge and grew it to a forest of enlightenment, wisdom and accomplishment.
April 9, 1865 is the date of the end of the Civil War, also the official date slavery became abolished in America – although “Juneteenth” – June 19, 1865 remains the last (known) date this freedom was announced to slaves (in Texas) who had until then remained enslaved in spite of the declaration of freedom.
But who was really free?
People of color remained virtually enslaved still, as sharecroppers, miners, sailors and other vocations where they were paid little or nothing for their labor. Even worse, many became so indebted to the landowners’ housing and company store, that they remained slaves in actuality for the rest of their lives.
And even those firebrands who had broken the mold and raised themselves up to become doctors, lawyers, scientists, educators – could they go and walk anywhere? Could they talk anywhere and say anything to anyone? Could they enroll in any school? Apply for any job?
Again.. who was really free? Even NOW, who is really free?
And..I am not even going into the issue of Non-Freedom of the the Native Peoples from whom we stole this so-called Free Land. That is a whole separate Freedom Issue on its own and a subject for another day.
And what about today?
Even today…when a renowned scholar such as Henry Louis Gates, Jr. – a famous and respected author, cinematographer, television star and Harvard Professor – is arrested on his own front porch for Breaking and Entering his own home – what freedom does he have? One only has to turn on any news station on any given day at any time of the day or night to find any number of horror stories involving arrests, beatings and murder of innocent people trying to go about their daily lives while Being Black.
And now I am only speaking about American treatment of fellow Americans.
Here we live in the so-called Land of the Free, where we constantly tout our freedoms – but are we willing to share those freedoms with others not as fortunate as we are?
Right now, at this very moment, we are trying to find ways to stem the tide of thousands of unaccompanied children from flowing into this country – sent here in desperation by their anxious parents who pray and hope that they will survive the trip and find a better life here in the U.S. We are pouring hundreds of armed soldiers to our borders to guard against the influx of poverty stricken human beings who make the frightening, sweltering run from Mexico to what they hope will be the Promised Land.
Do we welcome them? No. In fact sometimes, we shoot them.
Sometimes we even kill them.
Why? Because, not unlike our own American ancestors, they are seeking Freedom.
We call ourselves Human Beings?
We need to take a good, hard look within ourselves.
Take off the Prada shoes. Put on a pair of sandals made from old tire treads. Try to walk in those for a lifetime and see how you feel about Freedom then.
Will you change your view?
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6 thoughts on “KNOWING INDEPENDENCE (FREEDOM): DO WE?”
A very good piece of writing on a very interesting subject.
Thank you so much A…..I really do hope the message will be conveyed to at least one or two places where it might make a difference. There is so much to be done in the arena of human relationship and understanding, and we remain so mired down in our own personal tunnel vision. As time grows shorter for us older folks the need just grows ever greater to try and forge a peaceful means to coexist. I hold out very little hope now….
Pattie: Keep on speaking truth to power. In doing so, you act as the voice of those who think they are powerless, while shaking the foundation of those who believe they are all powerful, by exposing the lies upon which their false eroding sense of being all powerful rest-the mythical USA-bastion of freedom and democracy. It has never been so. It is not so now. Write On! Right on!
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Thank you so much for your encouragement B. Yes, I have learned from you that no matter how much I feel that our words fall on deaf ears, it is crucial to keep on trying to get our message out at least to our young people – where there may still be some hope of reaching inside that thick wall erected by their parents and forefathers. “Mythical US of A” is so tragically correct and the greater tragedy is that the myth remains even for those who come here with their hopes and dreams of finding a better life. I have heard so many stories from people who have come here legally from other countries – and even still they encounter all the stonewalling and ill treatment some people claim no longer exists in this country. Like I say in this piece – if those “some people” would take off their Prada shoes and walk for a lifetime (or even a day) in a pair of those tire-soled sandals worn by millions of less fortunate souls, they might change their view. But as you know, I recently experienced a private comment from a reader who exemplifies those Prada wearing many – about whom I can only now say – “THERE ARE NONE SO BLIND AS THOSE WHO WILL NOT SEE”
I wish we would become enlightened enough to correct the wrongs that still exist for others not so fortunate to have been born black skinned. Even the Jewish people experience the double standard that exists here in this enlightened country of ours. May God protect us all.
Most definitely, Rose. All people of color experience this kind of exclusion. And to speak of the Jewish people in this country, you only have to look as far as our own TV newscasts to watch in horror as modern-day Nazi sympathizers throw parades and demonstrations where riots break out and blood is shed! It is more than a tragic and pathetic commentary on the human race that after so many years nothing is ever learned. I do not know, as I have said many times before, whether there is a solution to this continual thirst for one group of people to hold power and authority over another group. And as you know very well, this is not an American problem, this is a human problem that occurs all over the world every day.