Tuesday, July 3, 2012


In his "Monday Morning Reflections" from Wisconsin, Derl Keefer makes the observation that July 4 is not about "fireworks" but about "freedom." I wish my noisey neighbors, who kept me awake for several nights, could have been more sensitive to the true meanings of this holiday--including those firecracker worshippers that accidentally burned down the large St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Kentwood, greater Grand Rapids.

We celebrate this Independence Day by displaying the stars and stripes. We close public offices, banks, and many businesses in honor of this special Day. Parades mark the primary public event in many cities and towns across the land, as backyards come alive with cookouts. Let us also remember people like the former slave, Frederick Douglas. Douglas was not only a former slave but also a member of the human race that was once considered inferior to white people; i.e., sub-human.

We also remember Frederick Douglas as a highly intellectual and generously accomplished American citizen, a brilliant human being, and a man who deeply believed in God and country. He operated a successful newspaper and became an active abolitionist. He may well be best remembered as one of America’s most brilliant orators. On July 5, 1852, Douglas delivered an oration for which we still remember him, after 150 years.

The year Douglas spoke, our very young and still new nation was but 3,000,000 people scattered about in an unstudied wilderness. At that time, we had little--still very undeveloped-- infrastructure. We had a president and a congress, but we had not yet realized our need for a stronger federal government and a stronger cohesiveness beyond the divided interests of competing states.
On this occasion, Douglas spoke to a segregated black audience on the subject of “What, To the Slave, Is the Fourth of July?” He spoke the day after the nation had just celebrated Independence Day 1852. In that interpretive speech Douglas declared:

“I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ringbolt to the chain
of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed., I regard it. The principles contained in
that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to
them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, at whatever cost”
(Frederick Douglas/Preaching With Sacred Fire/Martha Timmons & Frank
A. Thomas/W. W. Norton/NY /2010/141).

Within a decade of the Douglas oration, our forefathers fought a civil war among themselves, trying to determine whether or not these principles found in the Declaration of Independence--taken from the Bible--would protect every citizen or select citizens only. One hundred fifty years later, we have hopefully stopped waging civil war, but we still wage painful and protracted political, moral and spiritual warfare between advocates of what we could rightly call the 99% and the 1%. Ultimately, we will either extend liberty and justice to all, or we will retain special interests for the favored few. And I have to wonder: would Frederick Douglas have guessed that we Americans would still be fighting for the very existence of our national integrity 150 years later? The principles he affirmed in his highly interpretive speech of 1852 need our reaffirmation this July 4, 2012.

From Warner‘s World, we must, as Douglas said,
“be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, at whatever cost” (italics mine). Walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com

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