July 4 - Frederick Douglass, 1852
"We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.
Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival."
Today I heard at a 4th of July parade someone singing the National Anthem.
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
Yes, the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other places tormented by American bombardment know very well how true this is, but is it something to boast about?
If Americans had paid attention to Frederick Douglass in 1852, hundreds of thousands of Americans would not have had to die in the Civil War. It would be good to learn from their mistake now, but I think this generation will follow in the path of their fathers who blew him off. But God is not mocked.