You, Me, and Freddie D

I love the Fourth of July. It is the only holiday I really enjoy celebrating. Not because of the hotdogs, apple pie, or even the fireworks. (Yes, I love these things, too.) I love the Fourth because it is a celebration of the power and promise of words.

Yes, I am well aware the Declaration of Independence and the men who wrote it were deeply, tragically flawed on issues of race, gender, and class. But to me the beauty and meaning of the words they conjured from the ether of Revolution transcend our human failings, then and now. The Declaration is an eternal challenge for us to be better than we would otherwise be. Liberty demands accountability.

Agitators from 1776 forward have understood this. And one of the most eloquent critics of America’s incomplete and inadequate Revolution was none other than Frederick Douglass. (I trust that I do not need to recount his impressively improbable biography here. Far better minds than mine have done this already; and at least one has earned a Pulitzer for his efforts.) His July 5, 1852 speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” blasted a truth crater in the cherished myth of America’s origin story.

It should not surprise us that Douglass is still relevant today. After all, America remains in a perpetual state of becoming. And that sense of possibility keeps me coming back, keeps me in suspense. But Lord knows, keeping the faith has never been this hard. But we must. For ourselves. For our children. And for generations of children yet unborn.

Fittingly, Douglass said it best:

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

Happy Fourth of July. Let Freedom ring.

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. All fine words for the occasion but prime among them is your phrase
    ‘the beauty and meaning of the words they conjured from the ether of Revolution’.

    Too often words from leaden, foul sources conspire to overtake my thinking, but the example of Mr Douglass charges me forward, ready for some little “r” revolution.

  2. What is your opinion of this year’s semi boycott of the Fourth vis a vis Juneteenth?


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