When I was a child, we lived on a farm where it rains around 40 inches annually. On the Fourth of July, Dad always shot off a few Roman candles, and we had small firecrackers and sparklers, nothing fancy, just fun. Even then I knew about the Declaration of Independence, revered its message. Still do.
Now I live where it is hot and dry. The neighbor’s fireworks display rivaled those found in cities–beautiful but dangerous in brown grass country. I wonder if they give any thought to the history, to why anyone celebrates this day.
For the first time in the decades of my life, I did not celebrate Independence Day. Why?
Born decades ago, I originally went to college in Virginia where I experienced the shock of real segregation; I had not grown up where it was like that. I was horrified, lasted only one semester, then transferred. Later I attended a college which shut down in protest over the Viet Nam War, I supported The Civil Rights Movement, I helped create one of the first intercollegiate groups to advocate for abused women, and with an ethnically diverse group I taught diversity classes for teachers.
Now in 2020, I feel that even with all that hard, determined work, progress has been too limited. It is as if I have been transported back to 40 years ago. People need to learn from the history most do not even know:
-Cotton Mather, the leading intellectual and Puritan minister in the colonial era, actually helped butcher King Phillip (Metacomet) like an animal. What did he do to deserve this? He tried to save his Native people. Cotton Mather later writes about tearing Metacomet’s jaw from his skull.
-In 1676, when poor whites joined enslaved Africans to rebel for a better life and decent living conditions, fighting for justice against the wealthy planters, those rich planters realized they had to get poor whites to hate Blacks. They took land owned by Blacks and gave it to poor white people and then paid them to hunt down and abuse, even kill, people of African descent.
-Later, the same Cotton Mather mentioned above, learned from his slave that in Africa, Africans had been taking pus from a smallpox infected person and inoculating others with it to prevent smallpox from spreading. He refused to believe any African could be so smart even though he inoculated himself and his family after learning this. Later, he wrote this about his African slave who had told him the story that may have saved his life: “…brokenly and blunderingly and like Idiots they tell the Story.”
-Of course, we all know that the intellectual giant, Thomas Jefferson, held the deed to the woman who would later bear him numerous children while he proclaimed those famous words that all people are created equal.
The history of racial and ethnic hatred goes back to the inception of this country. It continues to poison progress and hope. It never seems to end. I am tired of it. Enough is enough.