Fourth of July

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When I was growing up the Fourth of July was our time to go visit grandparents and relatives who lived four hours away. It included an extended family picnic in a field along the back mountain, where wonderful dishes of food were spread down the extended table. Home-made ice cream, hand cranked in a wooden bucket filled with ice and rock salt, topped off the meal. A softball game in the pasture field included young and old. It was always a grand time.

A few years ago it occurred to me that Independence may not mean the same thing to all Americans. In America’s past, all men were not created equal in spite of what the was written in the Declaration of Independence. Amazingly,  people are resilient and rise up from slavery, hardship, bigotry, and pain to become the people we are today. There is no going back to fix the wrongs that have been done. But we can determine how we will live from here on into the future.  It is an ongoing lesson for all of us. This poem originated from those insights.

Fourth of July

When all the fireworks fade into ashes

And the Bar-B-Que grills have cooled

When the wide eyes of the children close in blissful sleep

Do you ever wonder

what Independence Day really means

to the ancestors of African slaves

brought here in the holds of ships

who look back at our forefathers

who bought and sold them

Forefathers who wrote “all men are created equal”

And realize the dark ones were not included

In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “less than human”

Or perhaps to the Native Americans

Who loved the free and open spaces

Only to be run off their lands

Herded like cattle into the desert

Left where summer heat scorched them

and winter snows chilled them to the bone

Where animals were few and crops refused to grow

Were they a part of “All men are created equal?”

No, in the words of our former Presidents

“They are just savages… they were less than human”

Or perhaps to the “Illegal Aliens” who scrub our floors

Pick our fruits and vegetables build our houses

Mow our lawns and mulch our shrubs

Are they part of “All men are created equal?”

No, in the words of many of us

“They are just ‘wetbacks”

“Nameless illegals”

“Who should be sent back where they came from”

Though we may not say it some of us think

They too are less than human

How quickly we forget the dark side…

How soon we lay aside our guilt insult or pain…

We rise as a flower in the sidewalk crack

Stepped on over and over again

Yet we rise and bloom from the strength of our roots

Independence Day is a time to “Bloom”

To draw from the strength of our roots

Not to forget but to move on

To all that we can become

In a land where in God’s eyes

“All men are truly created equal!”

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