“Land of the Free, Home of the Brave”… some how this Fourth of July these words from our national anthem rang within me with a clearer ring… We want to be the “land of the free” but do we really want to be the “home of the brave”?
“We removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer. We can’t continue like this another day. It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality.” ~ Bree Newsome
In the midst of the 4th of July festivities, this image from two years ago of the badass flagpole climber in South Carolina kept jumping into my mind… A picture speaks a thousand words. Does she not embody the brave spirit of dissent that gave birth to our country?
Fourth of July came and went this year, the usual patriotic displays of fireworks, sparklers, national anthems and lots of red, white, and blue. Did you too feel a surge of love and protective yearning for our country this year? Not just the usual patriotism but something deeper than that, a longing to reclaim (really for real) all of those lofty sounding ideals we sing and hear recited around the 4th of July to declare our independence as the “land of the free, home of the brave”.
Freedom feels so tenuous in our country today, so vulnerable to regression… As described previously, by many global indicators, freedom is currently in decline in our world. We want our freedom but are we willing to truly be brave to put some skin in the game to climb a flagpole or two to remove the relics and “monuments” of the past which excluded so many from the high ideals of the “self-evident truth” of freedom our founding fathers penned 241 years ago?
The 4th of July is a time to be festive and celebrate our “land of the free” but the week after is when the real work of the “home of the brave” comes in.
Pause for a moment the week after the 4th to hold Lady Liberty in your heart along with one of her modern-day badass, freedom-loving daughters—the South Carolina flagpole scaler—whose brave ascent/dissent embodies the hard work of preserving and expanding freedom’s call by removing all vestiges of the exclusions and stratifications of freedom and honor that have again and again divided our nation and the human family.
Her name is Bree Newsome, 30 years old, from Charlotte, NC. Early in the morning on June 27th, 2015, she woke up early and donned a helmet and climbing gear to scale a 30-foot steel flagpole. Her objective was to take down one of the stubborn “traditional” relics of our anti-freedom, slave-holding past — the confederate flag flying in front of the South Carolina State House. This was not some impulsive act. She planned it out. She was fed up with the stark contradictions between our high ideals as Americans and the stunning inequalities still sanctioned by traditional symbols and relics of the past. She was impatient with the blind spots which keep so many from connecting the dots between the ideals of freedom we celebrate and the slave legacy of our past, which still lives on in myriad vestiges in our hearts and minds as Americans.
In word and deed, she said to the world “enough is enough,” this traditional symbol of a patriotism so laden with the blood of slavery—yet flying high in a state capital—belongs in a museum not in a public place which symbolizes our highest and best values as a democracy.
Indeed there were many cracks in our Liberty Bell when the framers of our constitution penned the eloquent words we recite today around the 4th of July as hallmarks of the free, democratic society we seek to be today. And these cracks persist today and live on deep in the roots of our collective traditions and social norms. As much as we want to believe that freedom will just advance on its own, around the world freedom in fact is receding threatening to unwind hard-earned progress towards this crazy idea we celebrate on the Fourth of July—Liberty & Justice for All—that all human beings are born to live as freeborn people not as slaves, not as subservient, endentured servants, not as a “submissive role” or someone’s property to “own” or subjugate.
The reality is that while we sing our national anthems and celebrate independence day, we still have many “flags” and “mouments” that live on in our collective cultural fabric which create cracks and walls in the self-evident nature of the “liberty and justice for all” we celebrate on the 4th of July.
The day after the 4th of July is when we get to work scaling flagpoles to take down relics of injustice and unfreedom masquerading as holy and patriotic “tradition” which in fact spring from our oppressive, slave-holding, freedom-denying past.
Where do echoes of slavery—and all of the exclusions and stratifications that denied so many the inalienable rights and high ideals spelled out in of our constitution and declarations of independence—live on in vestiges and relics today?
Who still feels the shackles of the unfreedoms of the past that persist into the present still santioned by many of our traditional mores and defacto social norms? Some of these relics may not look like the “slavery” of the 18th and 19th centuries but live on like stubborn monuments in the traditional fabric of our cultural and religious lives together.
After she was arrested and charged with defacing a monument, Newsome released a statement which we need to hear again today this 4th of July: “We removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer. We can’t continue like this another day,” she said. “It’s time for a new chapter Read More