Today, Americans celebrate 245 years of independence from the British Empire.
On this day in 1776, our Founding Fathers declared:
“We … the Representatives of the united States of America … in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.”
This was a bold and risky action. Never before had a colonial state defeated its overlord, especially one at the apex of its global power.
Against all odds, the Founding Fathers rallied a young nation and won freedom. The Fourth of July is still, nearly two-and-half centuries later, a cause for great pride across our country. The idea of America, and the values on which it was founded, animate resistance struggles around the world. The principles of free speech, property rights, equality of opportunity, individual liberty, and checks and balances on government power are ones to aim for and live by.
But for some, the Fourth of July seems like a hollow festival. America the idea has grown distant from America the reality.
Our history is in many respects shameful: We enslaved African Americans; we pursued a genocidal conquest of Native Americans; we interned Japanese Americans in prison camps; we invaded Vietnam and Iraq and launched the “forever wars”; we backed coups against democratically-elected leaders; we have an ongoing War on Drugs and prison industrial complex; and we have developed a sophisticated surveillance state. These are just a few examples of how we have strayed from the breathtaking words of…