Reconsidering the Meaning of July 4th

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to talk about today. Our party typically spends this day proudly marching in the Highlands Ranch Fourth of July parade. But this year, the combination of COVID-19 and the increasing urgency to address systemic racism, gives us an opportunity to truly reflect on what this holiday represents to our country. July 4, 1776 - we say that is when we became a free country but how can that be so when 1) we only became a nation after the European settlers murdered the Indigenous people and seized their land, 2) Black people were still being actively kidnapped and enslaved, 3) only wealthy white men had the right to vote, and 4) members of the LGBTQ+ had to hide their identities in the shadows for fear of persecution? Have we made some progress in achieving the “more perfect Union” envisioned by the men who believed they founded this country since that time? Yes. Do we still have a long way to go? Absolutely. 

What would it be like to spend this day identifying and committing to working towards an actual more perfect Union, rather than celebrating our country as if our work is done? I don’t believe in just complaining about a problem and not generating potential solutions. Although it is important to identify these wrongs, it is just as necessary to work together to figure out how to address them.

We have actually had centuries to right these wrongs. Ask yourself why we haven’t done so. I recognize that human rights should not be a political issue, but the reality is that it is. Democrats at least talk about the importance of equity, but our party is equally complicit of agreeing to incremental change, refusing to demand that failure to address systemic inequities is insufficient and unacceptable. There are some issues for which small, consistent change in the right direction is a workable solution. Ensuring that all of the people in this country are truly free and not terrorized and subjugated by a system that actively promotes inequity is not one of them. 

As you all know by now, I spend my precious free time focused on promoting the success of our local candidates. This is why. We need new ideas, new demands to right a system that is mired in racism, sexism, and freedom for some, not all. We need new leadership to dare to tackle these problems and not take “no” or “wait your turn” for an answer. I, for one, am tired of being told to be patient for change while I watch so much unnecessary suffering in this nation. The only way for this to happen is to train new leaders. THAT is why local elections are so important. Most people don’t go from ordinary citizens to Senators or President. They start at local levels of the government, learn about how the system works, and move to state and federal positions. We must do our part to train local leaders so they can become our state and national leaders and demand systemic change. As you may have noticed, when the chips are down, we haven’t done a great job getting diverse candidates for the top of our ticket, despite the urgent need to bring new ideas and perspectives to the highest levels of our government.

I also want to encourage all of you to think about what “freedom” means. Freedom includes, but is not limited to, the systemic issues I alluded to above. In order to be a union, we must acknowledge that freedom includes our collective responsibility to do what is right, not just for ourselves, but for our communities and our country. Freedom is not permission to do whatever you want, but our country has recklessly chosen to embrace that as its definition. Please watch this video of the speech Frederick Douglass gave in 1852 called  “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July,” delivered by his descendants: to better understand why this day deserves so much more consideration than barbecues, parades, and fireworks.

Acknowledging this national holiday should include deep reflection and commitment to doing each of our parts to make this country one that is truly consistent with the values upon which it was founded. We have a long way to go, but I believe we can achieve this if we don’t allow our apathy, comfort, privilege, hopelessness, and despair interfere with our individual efforts. I, personally, have way too much at stake not to do my part to improve this nation. I cannot, in good conscience, look at my two little boys each day and not do all that I can to make the changes we need. I encourage you to join me.

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