Sunday, June 23, 2013

What is the significance of the Forth of July?

Every year the forth of July is a national holiday in the United States.  On this day we see people displaying flags of this country in every possible area.  We might consider that this day is a celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in the year 1776.  This declaration is a list of grievances given by representatives of the thirteen colonies against the British crowned government.  These grievances explained why the thirteen colonies decided to carry out a political revolution against the British.  At the time, the British government was the most powerful in the world.  These are the reasons the colonists gave for carrying out this revolution:

The Declaration of Independence

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.  But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

History doesn’t always give us a clear explanation of how or why events unfolded.  On the one hand, the Declaration of Independence promoted “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  The British rule of the thirteen colonies was, indeed, tyrannical.  The class of people called “gentleman” were the only people who had full rights in the thirteen colonies.  Someone could only become a gentleman through birth.  These so-called gentlemen could sentence everyday people to horrendous punishments whenever they chose to.  Today, no one argues that this country would be better off if it were ruled by the British crown.

On the other hand, the Declaration of Independence used the racist word savage, when it referred to the first inhabitants of this part of the world.  The government that came into existence with the Declaration of Independence continued the genocidal war against Native Americans for over 100 years.

Other views on the Declaration of Independence

Many of those who supported the revolution owned slaves and supported the continuation of this savage institution.  One of those slaves was Frederick Bailey.  Bailey escaped from slavery at the age of 19 and changed his name to Frederick Douglass.  Douglass changed his name because escaping from slavery was against the law and this made him a criminal in the eyes of the government.  

Recently a statue was unveiled in Washington D.C. of Frederick Douglass.  Eventually he became a leader of the movement to abolish slavery.  On July 5, 1852, Douglass gave a speech where he was asked to talk about the meaning of the Forth of July holiday.  The quotation below is an excerpt from that speech:

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?  I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.  To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons of thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.  There is not a nation on earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

“Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reins without rival….”

In 1967 Martin Luther King echoed the words of Douglass when he spoke out in opposition to the war against Vietnam.  King argued that the United States government was the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”

Malcolm X also spoke to this issue.  He argued that Black people in the United States were part of an international struggle for freedom and human dignity.  He argued that the Vietnamese had a common struggle with Black people in the United States.  He proposed that the World Court place the United States government on trial for the human rights abuses against Black people.  He also said, that the rights of Black people need to be defended, “by any means necessary.”

Why does the government spy in citizens?

Recently, the newspapers have reported that the National Security Agency is spying on the phone records and personal internet information of citizens in this country.  They say they will only uncover these records of people who are under suspicion.  In the past, the government has spied on both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.  The U.S. government, at one time viewed Nelson Mandela as a terrorist.

The immediate question to be asked is: Why is this happening?  While the answer to this question is clear, the pro-capitalist media doesn’t even consider giving a rational answer to this question.  There is a reason for this.

The capitalist system defies all rationalizations that attempt to defend it.  We are talking about a political economic system where a tiny minority of the population lives in opulence.  Working people routinely toil in horrendous conditions and have no control of their working environments.  Poverty is a fact of life in all capitalist nations and it is increasing.  Women, Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, and gays routinely experience discrimination.  War and the destruction of the environment are necessary for capitalism. 

All of these horrors are routine facts of life for one and only one reason.  This is to maximize profits on investments for capitalists.

This is why the government has always needed to spy on the people of this country.  The system of capitalism doesn’t make any sense at all.  Because the government chooses to defend this system they spy on anyone who opposes their rule.  This is why they spied on Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Nelson Mandela.


The Forth of July signifies that the United States was born because of a political revolution.  The Civil War was another revolution that removed slave owners from the positions of power they held.  The labor, civil rights, woman’s, and anti-war movements all erupted to challenge the routine practices of corporations and their supporters in the U.S. government.

If we look at the Forth of July from this point of view, I believe we can gain the perspective we will need to make this a nation where there will be human dignity for all.  We can also gain insight by looking at the struggles that took place in the past.

Thomas Paine was one the supporters of the first American Revolution.  Pain wrote a pamphlet titled Common Sense that was the most popular piece of literature in the thirteen colonies.  This pamphlet influenced the writing of the Declaration of Independence.

During the revolution the forces supporting independence had suffered several defeats.  The revolutionary army took refuge in a cold winter in Valley Forge and they were short of supplies.  They needed to figure out how they would continue the fight to defeat the most powerful army in the world.

During that period, this is what Thomas Paine had to say:

“These are the times that try men’s souls.  The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country, but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” 

I will close with another quotation from Frederick Douglass:

“Power concedes nothing without a demand.  It never did and it never will.  Find out just what any people will quietly submit to, and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.”                   

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