Happy Birthday America

 

 

We spend so much time criticizing you, pointing out faults and trying to fix you, I just wanted to remind you that I love you with all my heart.

You see, my love is one that is not based on jingoism, false patriotism or neo-fascist nationalism. It is TRUE love, the kind that requires an obligation to see you both as you have been and what you might be. The mistakes and atrocities of our common past, mixed with the unlimited potential for greatness. What makes me love you is not buried in musty history but gleaming with the possibilities of what may yet become real.

In 1776 you made me a promise, a promise of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Not long afterwards you added guarantees that ensured you would never turn on me, allow priests to dictate what I must believe, tell me what I could or couldn't say, what I could or couldn't write, who I could or couldn't associate with, and when wronged be able to ask you for help.

At the time most people did not believe that promise was meant for ALL, but only a select few. I knew better. I knew that although there were many who would deny me that promise, it was never you.

Some of my brethren were kidnapped from far off lands and told that not only did the promise not apply to them, but that they were less than human and could be bought and sold as property. Yes, it took almost a hundred years to correct that, but correct it you did and it cost you dearly, the price being the loss of far too many of your sons in the greatest conflagration you have ever known. Many then tried a subtler approach to deny them and it took another hundred years to reprimand them, but your disapproval finally came and now the sons and daughters of slaves walk with their heads held high. In fact you can proudly claim their music, art and poetry as your very own.

My sisters were told that their voices did not count and they must abide by what was expected. This too took many years to address, but was also corrected and now men and women work together and their gentler touch has made us all the better for it.

Late arrivals and some who were already here when you made those first beautiful promises were also told that they were not included. They were kept on reservations, locked in internment camps and denied equal access to liberty, but you put an end to it and tried to redress the harm done. We are now all the richer for it.

You acknowledge that not everyone expresses love the same way. Again there were many who did not understand and tried to prevent lovers from sharing the only thing that often makes life bearable. This is a battle still being fought, but I have no doubt of the eventual outcome; you will once again proclaim to the world that love is a thing of beauty regardless of who it comes from and who it is given to.

Many too claim health as a privilege, but you know better and hold it as a right necessary if your people are to thrive. You know that labor is a noble thing. That the corruption of finance is not what makes the stuff of democracy, although this too is a fight yet in the making.

You know that the only basis on which to make sound decisions are fact, evidence and reason, even though many would have you bend to their superstition and myths.

Other nations loved you for the promise and envied its possibilities. Some tried to initiate a similar one in their land. Some had to escape to you in order to realize it. You accepted them with open arms, even while many tried to slam the doors shut. But many also feared your wrath as it could be mighty both when provoked and when you were slighted. Some used that power to try and interfere with other nations and bend them to their favor. They were even willing to put our sons and daughters in harm's way for strictly selfish gain. But it was never YOU, although those corrupted by power claimed they acted in your name and manipulated your force.

From the outset you have been redefined in many ways. The artificial lines that make your borders have changed often, so it is not the geography that defines you. The ethnic mix that makes your population has diversified in every direction, so it is not race that defines you. The beliefs of your congregations have been added to and broadened to finally accept even those who claim no belief at all, so it is not religious faith that defines you. No it is none of those things, regardless that too many still hold that it is.

What does define you and make you great is that original promise that you made to me. That dream that ALL people are created equal, that justice is not reserved for the few, that the light you were first to shine on the darkness of ignorance would one day light the world and spread that promise to every corner. And because I KNOW that is who you are, I love you. I love you unabashedly and unashamedly. I love you in ways that mean I would lay down my life for you and offer the lives of my children in order to ensure that you not only survive, but grow, prosper and share yourself with everyone.

So today I celebrate that love. I will eat hot dogs. I will bask in the warmth of family and friends. I will ooh & ahh as pyrotechnics burst in the sky. I will enjoy a days respite from my labors. But as I do, I will remember. I will reflect and for a moment I will share my love story with all that will listen. I will pass my love down to my lineage. I will remind all that your promise is a fragile one that must be protected at all costs. And I will proclaim to all the universe that I LOVE YOU.

So again, happy birthday America. And may you have many, many more, because the older you get the closer we all get to the fulfillment of that promise you made to me and to ALL, so very many years ago.

 

declaration

Declaration of Independence

 

Jose Rosa

Jose Rosa

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