This Fourth of July marks the United States of America’s 244th birthday. If you’re not sure what to get the nation, here’s an idea.
In light of recent demonstrations, many Americans are troubled by the present and worried about the future. This July 4, comes on the heels of nationwide protests over racial injustice and police brutality, sparked by the death of George Floyd.
The ideal present for America on the Fourth of July would be a national “time-out,” which would give everyone a chance to pause and remember what America is all about.
Americans still believe in freedom and justice for all. They remain dedicated to the belief that all men and women are created equal with "certain unalienable rights,” including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
During a time of widespread protests against systemic racism and police brutality, this Fourth of July offers a perfect moment to call a “time-out,” which will allow Americans the opportunity to reflect upon their country’s past, present, and future.
Reflecting on the past
In his speech, Douglass acknowledged the Founding Fathers of America, the creators of the Declaration of Independence, for their commitment to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness":
"Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too, great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory….”
Douglass states that the nation's founders are great men for their ideals for freedom, but in doing so he brings awareness to their ideals with the existence of slavery.
"But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common."
Reflecting on the present and future
As we reflect on this day, we are reminded of the pain, hatred, and uncertainty enslaved ancestors have experienced — a suffering that continues today for millions of Black Americans. The state of so many is being raised anew about the legacy of racism, systemic oppression, and brutal violence inflicted on Black people in our country.
This year, as I and many other Americans celebrate this fourth of july, we must express our gratitude for the liberties we have been granted in this nation. However, we must also reflect upon our nation’s past and strive for a better future. A future, where our nation is free from all injustices.