Have you ever watched a movie that started with the ending? And you had to watch the rest of the movie wondering when everything would make sense? That’s kind of how I feel about my thoughts about the 4th of July. In honor of that holiday, I spent some time reflecting on the celebration itself. Millions of people took to the highways and airways to travel and meet up with family & friends for fun & food. Because of the pandemic, we just needed to get out.
For me, it turned out to be a lovely day of relaxing at home with my husband. It just so happened that quite a few people I know decided to just lay low and hang around the house. On the 5th, we did spend time with family and it was late in the day, while watching the evening news, that Harry Smith, a white, male television journalist who has earned a news & documentary Emmy award for outstanding writing, put everything into perspective for me.
Here are the closing thoughts of his monologue to end the July 5th broadcast of 2021:
As the founders prepared to sign the Declaration of Independence, Ben Franklin famously said, we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly, we shall hang separately. Yet while they were signing a document declaring all men created equal, 500,000 fellow Americans were property -- enslaved people, not equal by any standard. Our history is both woeful and wonderful. Our story should be shared… owned. It endangers no one to understand the sins of our past. For as an old book we’ve read says, the truth shall set you free.”
His words helped me crystallize my own conflicted feelings about this nation and how we celebrate and acknowledge (or not) it’s real history. To be perfectly honest, I’ve been struggling with the significance of July 4th for quite some time. Years ago, as a young Black woman in my twenties, before I realized that I had been “woke,” which is an admittedly overused term more often taken out of context than not, July 4th seemed more about BBQ than the celebration of America. Perhaps it was because the celebrated America of July 4th has always been different from my America. Now that you’ve heard the ending of my story this July 4th holiday weekend, allow me to take you back to the beginning next week!