The July 4th holiday has past, last night’s fireworks following a torrent of rain from an impressive thunderstorm. For a few days I have been thinking about the strange, or perhaps, not so strange, tension July 4th holds for me. My parents, as far as I know, did not face the holiday with the same discomfort, my father, in particular, taking great pride in his thirty years of military service.
I’ve been puzzling over what it is, exactly, that I find so discomforting. Perhaps I am most concerned by what is absent from the day: the simple fact that the colonists were as motivated by a desire to take more Native land as by their frustration with British taxes. The founding fathers greatly disliked any constraints on westward expansion. Soon after independence, Thomas Jefferson began the militarized acquisition of Native lands. He envisioned an ever-growing America, but needed a constant supply of “empty” land to fuel his dream. Later, Andrew Jackson would follow his lead, ignoring the Supreme Court to carry out the forced dislocation of most of the Native people of the Southeast. I wonder how the ceremonies and other activities that mark the 4th would be different if they included conversations about this history.
Speaking of Andrew Jackson, Cynthia Coleman Emery wrote a piece last week about Ted Cruz’s lionization of Andrew Jackson. Of course, Cruz is hardly alone; rather, he is one of a host of conservative politicians and commentators who hold Jackson as the ideal American President. Given Jackson’s blatant racism, one would hope we could, as a nation, find better models of leadership. Oddly, among mainstream commentators, there are few dissenting voices regarding Mr. Jackson.
Dr. Coleman wrote:
Although I don’t always agree with Supreme Court decisions I respect the authority of the country’s highest court.
When Ted Cruz told NPR this week the court ruled incorrectly on marriage equality and national health care I felt a chill.
Public relations stars aligned for Cruz: he’s announced his candidacy for president and is embarking on a book tour—fodder for headlines.
News reporters clamor for interviews and Cruz doesn’t disappoint.
According to reporter Steve Inskeep, “Cruz is making a case for ignoring last week’s Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage.”
At first blush, ignoring laws simply seems loony.
I’d hate to give authority to someone like Cruz who promises to defy the Supreme Court.
That’s precisely what Andrew Jackson did as president.
Later, she noted the lack of public challenge to Jackson’s actions:
And no one defied President Jackson.
I hope someone defies Ted Cruz.
Maybe that lack of public conversation about these matters is what disturbs me the most about the July 4th holiday. There remains little public discussion about the darker side of U.S. history, nor unified outcry against the ongoing theft of Native lands, and willful disregard of other treaty obligations, by governments at all levels. Nor do we, as a country, discuss the simple truth that these are not just political problems; rather, they, like the vestiges of slavery, are deeply spiritual questions that challenge the soul of our culture.