4th of July 2019: Gadfly’s thoughts drift to the past and to the Southwest border

Gadflies are never satisfied. Gadflies, seeking perfection,
always see the glass only half-full.

“I shall see this day . . . from the [migrant’s] point of view.”

In 1852 the people of Rochester, NY, did an audacious thing.

They asked a slave — Frederick Douglass — to give the annual 4th of July oration.

Douglass had escaped slavery. And until quite recently, when a friend purchased his freedom, he was still the property of another, subject to arrest and return to his Master. He was “Other.”

In that oration, Frederick Douglass did an audacious thing. He spoke as a slave and asked, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

In that oration, Frederick Douglass had the audacity to tell us what the slaves would think and say hearing the pious and patriotic 4th of July orations.

Followers will know that Gadfly feels the pain of others. Especially unjust pain.

You know, for instance, he can’t shake the pain in the May 22 letter to the Mayor and Council from the South Bethlehem Historical Society about the impact of “progress” on the character of the Southside.

Imagine, then, how he feels on this 4th of July about reports from the Southwest border these past few days about conditions of the migrants.

 

Gadfly will ask you to do an audacious thing.

Imagine if we asked a migrant in detention on our Southwest border to give the 4th of July oration here today.

And imagine he or she answered in Frederick Douglass’s words.

I am not wanting in 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 fame 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. . . .

Fully appreciating the hardship to be encountered, firmly believing in the right of their cause, honorably inviting the scrutiny of an on-looking world, reverently appealing to heaven to attest their sincerity, soundly comprehending the solemn responsibility they were about to assume, wisely measuring the terrible odds against them, your fathers, the fathers of this republic, did, most deliberately, under the inspiration of a glorious patriotism, and with a sublime faith in the great principles of justice and freedom, lay deep the corner-stone of the national superstructure, which has risen and still rises in grandeur around you. . . .

I am not included within the pale of this 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. — The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. . . .

Above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of [hundreds? thousands?]! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. . . .

I shall see this day . . . from the [migrant’s] point of view. . . . I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the [detained migrants] on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate [this treatment] — the great sin and shame of America! . . .

I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-[immigrant] creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the [migrant] is a [human being]? . . .

What, then, remains to be argued? . . . The time for such argument is passed. At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and
could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced. . . .

(At this point, you might want to drop off and read “ICE Argues Migrants In Camps Are Free To Die At Any Time.”)

What, to the [migrant], is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

Like getting hit with a bucket of boiling oil.

A message addressed with equal fervor to members of all political parties.

3 thoughts on “4th of July 2019: Gadfly’s thoughts drift to the past and to the Southwest border

  1. To take this one step further, what is the 4th of July to an Indigenous person?

    What does it mean to person whose ancestors were nearly destroyed by the US of A — their lands stolen, their ecologically-sound food systems & agriculture destroyed, and every aspect of their culture attacked and erased?

    Like

  2. In the 1960s, many black spokespersons were aware of the absurdity of our government’s calling on black youth to fight to establish democracy in Vietnam when such freedom was not available to them at home.

    Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
Position Paper: On Vietnam
    . . .
    We take note of the fact that 16% of the draftees from this country are Negroes called on to stifle the liberation of Vietnam, to preserve a “democracy” which does not exist for them at home.
    We ask, where is the draft for the freedom fight in the United States?

    > http://www2.iath.virginia.edu/sixties/HTML_docs/Resources/Primary/Manifestos/SNCC_VN.html

    Like

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