Happy Birthday, USA

I want to wish a very Happy Birthday to a nation that, despite all its flaws, has given birth to the likes of such wonderful minds, talents and souls as: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Dorothy Day, Nat Turner, Eugene V. Debs, Jack London, Paul Robeson, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Doris (Granny D) Haddock, George Carlin, Ray Bradbury, Lucy Parsons, Muhammed Ali, Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr., Sam Cooke, Little Richard, James Zwarg, Fred Hampton, Gil Scott Heron, and so many others of which I have either momentarily forgotten or not yet become aware.

The United States Of America also gave refuge to and helped shape the likes of Mother Jones, Isaac Asimov, Erich Fromm, Albert Einstein, Harry Houdini, Emma Goldman, Nikola Tesla, Roberto Clemente, John Muir, and many others, great and humble.

When I think of all these great Americans, I can’t help notice that they were great not because they defended the status quo but because they wanted to create new art, confront current injustices, or refashion the way we Americans perceive ourselves. This, supposedly, is what the United States is all about, the way we’ve always seen ourselves and the way we’ve portrayed ourselves to the rest of the world. We were groundbreakers, not tied to the traditions of the old world. We were to usher in the new world, a better world. As we celebrate today, let us not merely revel in the past but learn from it. Instead of retelling the stories we’ve been told from our youth, we might do well to learn from them and apply them to the present so that future generations can look back upon us with pride.

Happy 4th Of July, everybody. Celebrate all the accomplishments that have been achieved by those who call themselves Americans, but do not fall prey to false pride or simplistic narratives. Remember that the story of the United States is one of a forward-looking and thinking people who were not content to merely do what their forefathers did. Have fun while being mindful of how your celebrations might impact other people and animals. Don’t be merely thankful for your freedom but embrace it, contemplate what freedom really means rather than accept the definition given to you by people who just want to sell you soft drinks, cars or sanitary napkins. And don’t ever forget that indulging in freedom while ignoring the responsibility that goes along with it is an illusory and ephemeral sort of freedom.

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