Today, we are told, is Independence Day. Today, we are told, the United States declared its freedom from the tyranny of Great Britain. Today, we are told, is a day we should revel in and celebrate.
But, we must question that. Yes, the United States’ independence was declared, but who was truly free? Let us not forget that while the ‘Founding Fathers’ were signing their names, slaves were screaming in agony as they bore the pain of the lash. Nor let us forget that the country itself was founded on the forced removal of Native Americans, with a near-genocide occurring by the time the US had fully expanded to the Pacific Ocean. For slaves, women, indentured servants, and poor and working-class Americans, the world after the signing of the Declaration of Independence looked eerily similar to the world prior – both groups were still exploited, suppressed, and used by those at the top.
238 years later, this oppression remains. The class that ruled when the country first began – rich men – still rules today, although the club has expanded and globalized. The power of the state is still used to uphold laws that protect the rich and oppress the disenfranchised. From minimum wages so low that you can’t even survive to the recent Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision which frees corporations from paying for female birth control even though such medicine is used for much more than just sex. While some may argue that progress has been made, their arguments ring hollow when one simply looks at the statistics of marginalized groups.
We are not truly independent or free. While we may be able to speak our minds (hence this post), even such talk has limits. Because as soon as words become influential enough to question and expose fundamental power structures en masse, like in the case of Martin Luther King, Jr., they are dealt with. And if and when any marginalized community puts forth a concerted effort to gain basic human rights, American history tells us they will be suppressed and destroyed by force or sabotage as with the WWI vets of the “Bonus Army,” the workers of various labor struggles, much of the Civil Rights movement, the Black Panther Party’s humanitarian efforts in poor communities, and the Occupy Wall Street movement; or co-opted as with the current LGBT rights and labor movements.
This lack of freedom is made all the more insidious when coupled with the illusion that we are free. Yet, this illusion is shattered every day when a police officer beats and brutalizes an unarmed citizen, a bank takes a home from a family, a worker is unable to find a job, a woman is raped with no recourse, a child’s father is deported, and another young Black male is sent to prison. How do we control our own destinies when, in this sham we call a democracy, politicians are bought and paid for by corporations and seek to do the bidding of their donors rather than the people?
This may not be our day, but despite the seemingly insurmountable struggle, true freedom and independence remain possible. However, it will not come by protesting or pushing for reforms. We will gain our freedoms by dropping out of this system entirely. This system is not meant to serve the poor or working-class or any other marginalized group. We get the scraps from the table while those at the top eat a five-course meal. And many of us get nothing at all.
Rather than participating in a system based on coercive competition – a Hunger Games-like competition that is designed for us to fight one another while the rich and powerful reap the rewards – we need to organize together to make alternative systems that circumvent the status quo entirely. From these new systems we will be able to fully realize ourselves as human beings, we will be able to truly reach our potential. We will have found true independence.
This system has failed us. It has failed our parents. It is failing our children. And it is only a matter of time before the system itself becomes unsustainable. Where will you be after the clock strikes midnight? Organize. Educate. Discuss. Create unity with your working-class sisters and brothers.
Our fight for freedom and independence has yet to begin.