Jul 4, 2012 - An Independence Day Wake Up Call for Americans
By: Ruth Hopkins
On July 4, 1776, a singular document called the Declaration of Independence proclaimed American liberation from Great Britain. On Independence Day, as good Americans hoist flags overhead, sing patriotic songs, light fireworks, and some drink themselves stupid, they’ll praise Americas accomplishments and blindly rejoice in freedoms assured. However, most will fail to realize the tremendous human cost, and value, of American freedom.
When I refer to the human cost of being free, Im not only talking about the hundreds of thousands of soldiers, some Native, who paid the ultimate price to protect the land and the People. I’m eternally grateful for their sacrifice, as well as that of veterans who fought alongside them. However, I’m also talking about millions of other human beings who were killed merely because they stood in the way of American conquest. Will Americans remember them today too?
To put it plainly, Americans are spoiled and largely apathetic. This is apparent not only by the publics obsession with materialism and low voter turnout, but also a myriad of other examples of how they’ve checked out from public debate, international discourse, and supporting worthy causes. The mainstream media is partially to blame. Owned by large corporations, big media has it’s own agenda and it’s not necessarily square with legitimate international newsworthy concerns like human rights or revolution. However, we also allow ourselves to be distracted by sensationalism. If we look hard enough, real news is out there- especially via the blogosphere.
The general population needs to get informed and take a good hard look at itself. Americans need to take responsibility for the actions of the grand ol’ U.S.A., as a people. Americans pat themselves on the back and say we’re the last superpower on Earth because we’ve earned it. Wrong. It’s true that a lot of Americans work hard, but so do washing machines. The United States of America was built on land baptized in the blood of millions of innocent Indigenous, over the backs of millions of African American slaves.
The rebuttal that Americans alive now aren’t responsible for the misdeeds of their forefathers because they weren’t alive then holds no weight either, because America continues to build its Empire under their watch. The Federal government is waging war for oil and ignoring the rights of Indigenous who are alive today by supporting corporations who are fracking and drilling for oil on Native lands- knowing they are forever damaging Indian Country in the process. When they’re done, they’ll leave and once again, Natives will be left with utter disaster (in this case, environmental).
From what I’ve observed, indulgent Americans complain too much, and about the wrong things. Dont get me wrong- there are legitimate grievances. As Natives living within U.S. boundaries, these issues also affect us. Just to name a few: the U.S. economy hasnt fully recovered, unemployment is still high, the housing market remains shaky, fracking is polluting our groundwater, the U.S. continues to wage wars abroad, and Homeland Security and the National Defense Authorization Act are trampling on our First Amendment rights (namely our rights to Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, and Freedom of Assembly), as well as our Right to a Trial or Due Process. These problems arent going to go away overnight. However, instead of reflecting on how the country got here and working on solutions, people are busy complaining that theres nothing to watch on television or that they have to wait in line (First World Pains). Most Americans fail to realize that the mere fact that we have fresh, free, clean water at our disposal, receive a public education, or even that we are able to read this column puts us head and shoulders above the majority of the worlds population. Regardless of who placed them there, many appear to have blinders on when it comes to serious issues- thus they stay quiet, passive and obedient, and don’t try to affect real change for the good of all.
All American wealth and every implied freedom came at the expense of another displaced or exterminated group of people. Even today, children work for pennies in sweatshops to make cheap American clothes. Americans are rich beyond measure in comparison to the rest of the world. One only need see the exorbitant Carbon footprint of the U.S. to realize how many resources we are hoarding to ourselves at the expense of everyone else on Earth.
So here we are, now- in 2013. We can’t allow ourselves to forget the mistakes of the past, but we must move forward and make a better future for coming generations. Those of us, both Native and non-Native, who are aware of Americas true history and understand that the American Empire bears some accountability to work with the rest of the world instead of bleeding it dry, also have a responsibility: to educate those who slumber in ignorance and apathy, and set a positive example by being involved in local, national, and global dialogue. This is how we remember the slaying of innocents- that unjustifiable human cost, and prevent it from happening again.
After all, whats the point of having freedoms in place, if they remain unused? If they are never tested, then the question becomes, do they really exist at all? Americans, and Natives, should have a voice in the global community. Those who refuse to participate will be left behind. In another country, someone is being executed right now for speaking up against an oppressive regime. Pregnant women and children are starving to death in third world countries. While America slumbers, countries across the world are staging protests in the street. American tax money is being used to launch drones over civilian territory. If anyone can change the course of human history right now, its us. When something is wrong, you fix it. Act before its too late. Speak up. Sleeping giant, awaken.