The True Fourth of July

By Muhammad Nasser

Forty years ago this week President Johnson, a southern Democrat signed into law the Civil rights Bill of 1964 despite the filibustering of white, southern racists.  Within four years the most celebrated civil rights leaders and social reformers of the 20th century, Martin Luther King, Malcom X and Robert Kennedy would be assassinated. These were men who had not fired a shot in anger. 

On this 4th of July night the nation is engaged in a frenzy of merry making, celebrations, parties and  thanksgiving over that most blessed gift, Human freedom and dignity.  But this evening as the fireworks fill the skies over our cities and citizens nation wide eat their barbecue not all Americans are celebrating.

I am an African-American, I live in a major city in the eastern part of the nation, I have never willingly waved a flag or sung the pledge of allegiance even as a child and yet I am native born to this land, as American as any American!

Is Your Insurance

I am not celebrating anything. While most Americans are swept away on a carpet of red, white and blues, dazzled by fire works and TV shows, speeches and public pronouncements proclaiming our freedom, my eyes have yet to see the glory that they now rejoice over.

On television there are programs showing immigrants talking about how happy they are to be Americans.  That's fine, but in America tonight there are those like my self who burn not fire crackers but a light in our windows in the hope that justice will find us.

In the nation tonight a million people are in American jails, many of them the African Americans who could never look up at the statue of liberty like some grateful roman freedman and say thank you for your gift to me.  We acknowledge that things have improved but they have not improved enough and in some ways the situation is worse, made worse by the current presidency of George Bush and his crime family.

Slaves for 200 years in America, disenfranchised for a further 100 from the end of the civil war to 1964 and made to fight the civil rights movement over and over again with each new generation of conservative, southern racists in Washington and local politics we the despised of this guilty nation can not look upon any period of American history and say "those where the good old days".

NO it is not the forth of July for all of us, no matter how much you would ignore my words or drown me out with Sousa's band music.  The burning truth is that America has not lived up to it's creed for all its citizens, and does not plan to.

Last Year in Philadelphia the city fathers opened to the public a new Constitution Center. Lost in this dedication is the sad fact that this new showcase of the Constitution was built on top of a grave yard of African slaves!

The irony of this is lost on no one who knows about it!  Even now the insult is added to by still another injury to the collective dignity of my people, and fewer than 1 person in 10,000 in America is even aware of it.  It's not the sort of thing you talk about while engaging in a festival of self-congratulations.

The True Forth of July will not dawn for my people nor for America as a whole until the sins of racism and bigotry are washed away, apology and compensation made to the descendants of American slave holding and Jim crow -- and not until the nation as a whole, not just her government stays their hand from domestic and global racism, acknowledges our plight.  Until then there is nothing to celebrate as a nation, nothing but the swelling vanity of a short sighted and small minded people.

America can kill Malcolm X, assassinate Martin Luther King, send cops to murder Fred Hampton in his bed, or shoot Robert F. Kennedy in a  hallway, but America can not kill their message, nor make us forget their example.  These men never fired a shot in anger but were silenced because they dared to try to make America a place of equality.  Instead of listening, America continues to be ruled not by a true rule of law but by a wealthy elite who support George Bush and his cronies in Texas and Saudi Arabia.

America is becoming  a place where moral bankruptcy is a kind of religion, where corruption at the highest levels IS the order of the day and the ignorant mob is kept in a perpetual state of alarm over the threat of mostly non-existent terrorist threats.

In George Orwell's book 1984, the author speaks of a process where the wars a nation fights are not meant to cease but to go on year in, year out, decade in, and decade out for the sole purpose of maintaining the status quo. 

George Bush calls himself a war president.  The real term is "war-time president," meaning a President during a time of war. No President should be in office to wage war.  A President's primary goal should be to wage civilization. 

The point is that while war is furthered poverty grows, while our court system become macabre finance companies for the States, squeezing the poor and indigent of Moines in the form of  parole fees and court fees, justice goes wanting. True Justice is NOT justice at someone else's expense.

Our nation locks up and locks down millions of people but the broader justice remains elusive, a justice where those responsible for creating or perpetuating a condition in which crime and corruption flourishes and remains unpunished. An awareness of the Larger Injustices of our nation is what is needed now.

Still, there will be those who say America, love or leave it or go even further as many have and say  "go back to Africa" or where ever, but those are the cries of small, frightened men clinging to their fears, afraid that THEY may have to change in order for America to become America.

It is a necessary thing to criticize America for her short comings without losing faith in her essential potential to go beyond being a nation of hucksters, hustlers ,snake oil sales men, casual or institutional racists or crime families committed to making their lives better at someone else's expense.

This thread of "take what you can-when you can-from whom you can" runs through our entire history as Americans and explains much of our conduct as a nation, from the wanton holding of slaves in the 18th and 19th centuries, to the support of dictators for oil and strategic metals today.

2000 years ago there was an idea that was Rome, a place where men  and women fought and died for the idea that people could live together in peace and equality.  Rome's true self was lost to greed and corruption often masked by displays of ceremony and grandeur to keep the population miss directed.  

It is still the same today in Washington where men speak words they have not written to selected crowds in staged media events.  They talk a kind of word-speak where they use hot button terms to get people fired up to do their bidding on issues which are used merely to disguise their intents to covet what the world has in the name of democracy.  Don't think for a moment that the elite care about you because you are white, or a veteran; they don't need you, and you are expendable.

We in America claim to be the  inheritors of that once great republican idea that undergurded the foundations of Rome, the question now is: is that idea worth working toward. I say that it is .

But the quest for the True Fourth of July in the True America must begin with mutual respect for one another, for the truth and for our collective right to live a better, more meaningful life, not just a life with more or bigger possessions .

My original concerns still stand.  What I believe is that America is intolerant of the demand for full participation by minority groups in general and by African Americans in particular. The deliberate removal from the voting roles and subsequent labeling of persons in Florida as felons during the 2000 election, many of them African Americans is a prime example of my argument.

That there be a frank discussion of issues of fundamental, entrenched bigotries so pervasive as to be invisible, so invisible as to be pervasive, be put on the table and discussed not with rancor and fist shaking but with an epic calm.

Because we are a nation of schemers, go-getters, rugged individualists and hustlers we are often unable to work together as a nation until there is a crisis and then we usually work against our own interests, we  point fingers at one another , blame someone else, blame the poor, the Italians, the Germans or the Japanese as we did in the second world war. 

In the south the white man blamed the black man for his troubles after the Civil War, resulting in 100 years of disenfranchisement, the economic and cultural equivalent of placing a 100 pound mill stone around a man's neck and then expecting him to run a foot race uphill. The happy inheritors of this legacy can be found today in the mean-spirited, money-motivated politics of the ultra-right wing of the Republican Party. Their hoods replaced with dark, blue suites.

As for reparations, the discussions of reparations cannot begin with questions of money, the issue is not about money and it is an insult to suggest that it is. The question of reparations is a multi-dimensional pursuit to become who we can become as a nation. Within those dimensions is the question of admitting of the facts, that these things did happen  and their result is still with us today.  

Only then can the nation  purge itself of guilt for its crimes, disgorge itself of racism and begin the true healing process, a process which will take many years if not decades to complete.  The true Fourth of July is then something which we living now should not hope to celebrate but hope that our children shall, for when the day spoken of in this text does dawn it will be the Fourth of July not just for America but for the world, no matter what date it falls on......

One Year ago, on the Fourth of July 2003 I published this article on the internet resulting in some debate on my comments about our values as a people, on the meaning of the Fourth of July in the United States and it's deeper meaning. Every year for the rest of my life this article shall be published anew with additional commentary about the state of race relations and justice in the United States. Until the United States scrubs itself  clean of the stench of  Racism, Oppression and injustice in all of its contrived forms, this discourse shall go on and on ...and on.

MUHAMMAD NASSER BEY may be contacted by writing to: 

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