It goes without saying that if you live in the US, you probably celebrate Independence Day. But how much does the average person understand what this country is all about? How much do Americans get what it is they’re celebrating? I would venture to guess… not much.
Sure, we Americans enjoy a great degree of liberty and freedom, at least traditionally–or is that so? If our economic system prescribes a life of wage slavery for most of us, guaranteeing nothing in the way of employer decency, or even a living wage–just how free are we? If most media in the US is controlled by a handful of corporations, and if we’re hammered by marketing images of how things should or could be if you bought X product, to what extent are we free from corporate distortion of news? To what extent are we free from a national infrastructure that the US Association of Civil Engineers just rated a D-? Do secretive federal surveillance programs recently unveiled by Edward Snowden, which by the way have already harmed relations with countries all over the world, make us any safer or freer? What kind of democracy is it when a fixed (some would say rigged) two-party system whose elections are now funded ad infinitum by corporate money? The current political system is broken, and it has the country in a most dangerous political bind.
No, I would contend that the above do not make us freer. Long a central mantra of American society, “Freedom, liberty and justice for all” has in fact sunken to an all-time low of truthiness, bereft of meaning–having been whittled away into little more than a propaganda tool for brainwashed high school teachers and power-mongering presidents, as the realities above demonstrate.
More meaningful to me than all of the above is the following bleak truth: the Unites States is a colonial, settler society that is by any stretch of reason and natural law, illegal. In its name, white men carried out what Howard Zinn indicates was the most brutal form of slavery ever to materialize on Earth. In its name, wealthy white men created the most brutal forms of capitalism ever: laissez-faire and neoliberalism, which by way of their wide option across the world, have wreaked havoc on the Global South (the poor, mostly post-colonial countries of Latin America, Africa, India, the island countries, and Asia), spurred some of the greatest wealth inequality in history here in the US and in Brazil, and most gravely, imperiled the very ecosystems we depend on to keep this planet habitable and beautiful.
Lastly, the most shocking and despicable fact of all: in order to make room for this “great” country and its white people to propagate and sexyre resources in the way that the wealthy landowning white men of the day wanted, they had to ensure the death or assimilation (but mostly death) of millions of native indigenous people in one of the greatest ethnic cleansings in human history; secondly, in order to BUILD this most powerful capitalist economy, they had to get cheap labor, hence the brutal centuries-long enslavement of African people on the basis of skin color.
Yes, the US had produced some of the great musical art of the 20th century, such as hip hop, rock and roll, soul, r&b, etc – mostly, ironically, by black people and white people in a creative reaction to systematic state oppression. The US spawned the light-bulb, the automobile, the airplane, the refrigerator, the microwave, and computer technology. But at what cost?
Do these technologies and artistic achievements, however excellent and useful for us, justify the US’s existence? Do they justify the US’s bloody, genocidal beginnings that live on in the neo-slavery institution we call the prison system and impoverished, mistreated indigenous American reservations? My gut and my brain, taking history into account, cry out resoundingly, “No.”