—Updated 5 July 2021 at about 1:15 PM.
In the USA, it’s the 4th of July! In my memory there have been regular ceremonies conducted at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, just a few miles from where I’m typing this post, in which people who have elected to take up US citizenship complete the final steps in the naturalization process. Though I think the ceremonies were not held this (or last) year, I have attended in the past. [Update: I was mistaken about there not being a naturalization ceremony at Monticello; the ceremony was held, but it wasn’t open to the public.] It’s stunningly moving to me to see people makng such a decision and stating it publically. Shoot, all I did was be born here.
There are many good reasons to celebrate what is sometimes called “Independence Day.” Certainly one of the foremost is confirming the idea that human beings should have personal and political freedom and have a strong say in the actions of their governments. I’m pretty sure that Canada, the UK, France, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries have similar national days and traditions. Yay!
This year, I think it is especially appropriate to note that the USA began marking another day of independence and freedom. I’m referring to Juneteenth, the celebration of the day in US history in 1865 when a military officer in Texas announced that previously enslaved people were and of a right ought to be free (to borrow a phrase), that they had been emancipated.
One of the ironies buried in the pursuit of freedom is that so many US advocates for civil rights have been people who were enslaved or who, as the decendents of enslaved people, were denied fundamental rights in times since the formal end of slavery. I’m thinking of people who have provided extraordinary leadership. These people have come from many differernt walks of life, but I sulute them and offer my thanks to Frederick Douglass, Benjamin Banneker, W. E. B. DuBois, Ida B. Wells, Bayard Rustin, Septima Clark, M. L. King, Jr., Paul Robeson, Amelia Boynton Robinson, Ralph Abernathy, Derrick Bell, Benjamin Hooks, Medgar Evers, James Meridith, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Julian Bond, James Farmer, Stokley Carmichael, Thurgood Marshall, Barbara Jordon, Bill Russell, Shirley Chisolm, John Lews, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Ruby Bridges, and so many more (and I omit names not to descredit folks, but just because my memory is weak). So, finally, on this 4 July 2021, I want to appreciate how much their contributions to this American fabric enhance my own freedom and independence.