Bonnie Jean and I celebrated the 4th by setting off our own fireworks. I'm guessing we set off about 25 all told. Not the up in the air kind that were just legalized here, but the cheaper smaller ones that stay on the ground. Or, at least they are supposed to stay on the ground. There were a couple that were supposed to spin more or less in the same place on the ground that decided to shoot off side ways and one which levitated onto my neighbors balcony (or at least that's where we think it was headed, never found it again afterwards). It was fun. Setting off their own fireworks was a family tradition for her growing up and I had never done it before.
This fourth hasn't felt as sunshiny for me as some in the past. I've been studying American History post civil war and its harder to talk about being the land of the free when you understand just how recent our understanding of the idea of freedom actually is. I read a document written by a black man looking back on world war one when he complained about facing the enemy guns abroad and the lynching mobs at home and how tempting it was to simply sit the war out and try not to commit to a nation that hadn't committed towards their safety and freedom. Or the history of the migrant workers who faced violence, restricted civil rights, and absurdly dangerous working conditions. Its one thing to speak nostalgicly about all the ethnic minority immigrant groups making up our melting pot nation and another entirely to read about how only about half of the melting pot people stay since they by and large came as migrant workers looking to save up some money to take home to europe. They weren't very melty and its only later looking back you can talk about how wonderful their integration and naturalization went when at the time depending on the group, place, and time there were mobs that would form to drive ethnic minorities out of town to keep the land and the work available for the 'pure' white race. Laws were passed so that these ethnic minorities sometimes couldn't vote, couldn't own land, couldn't testify in court, weren't allowed to intermarry etc...
Now, based on my studies the Holocaust completely changed our views of human rights and what was right and wrong concerning racial evaluations. But once you know all the nitty gritty about how we got here, the surprising thing isn't that its a land of the free. Its traditionally been a land free for specific groups at specific times. There are other places you could say well if you only look at the empoered group then sure its a land of the free. Closer to the truth I think is that the US is one of the first places were certain kinds of thoughts entered human consciousness about human rights and that those ideas have been expanding over time. And that's a very different from saying it a land of the free.
3 months ago