Once again, America finds itself commemorating another Independence Day. We recognize this day as the day when people of the English colonies in America could no longer live under rule of England. We associate American independence with July 4, 1776, and our Declaration of Independence. We remember this as the day that people officially declared themselves not to be British subjects, but to be free Americans.
Americans celebrate the day with picnics, flags, fireworks, and gatherings with family and friends. We live in this moment of freedom and enjoy this day.
I also reflect on our founding fathers’ vision on this day. I reflect on the moral courage in their declaration of freedom not only for America but for all humanity in the Declaraion of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”
In the past year in our human rights efforts with Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.), I have had great successes meeting with individuals of every identity group, every political cause, every race, gender, religion, that share our common commitment to such unalienable rights, and share our common commitment to challenging those who would take these away from us in America or anywhere in the world. From Muslim-Americans supporting democracy, women’s rights, and religious freedom to far-left Americans defying religious extremist views, I have found Americans who are truly united in this consensus in every religion, color, gender, and from both the right and the left. Political pundits may find stories of our political polarization to be interesting, but they neglect our greater consensus that we always had on the truths that we find self-evident. Most Americans hold fast to these truths and they believe in equality and liberty.
Many have concerns about groups that wish to do Americans harm and that seek to take our rights away. But we can never fall into the trap of letting our concerns and challenges become hate and fear.
Our independence and human rights mean nothing as long as we are enslaved to hate and fear.
Some believe that we can be enslaved to hate as Americans. A year ago, the press reported an American citizen expressed such views to his European friends that hate was “natural, normal and necessary,” and that “compassionate nations” would “die.” Those were the words of James Von Brunn to his friends, Nazi supporters in Germany, before his June 10, 2009 terrorist attack on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
As long as we are enslaved to hate, we have no independence. As long as hate rules our lives, we will never be free, no matter how we can justify such hatred to people of other identity groups, religions, races, genders, and ethnic groups. Hate destroys all, and it destroys our very freedoms. Hate is un-American.
Some also believe that we can be enslaved to fear as Americans. In an era of mass terrorist attacks, fear has gained more power than ever before in American history. We know that ultimately there is no way to stop the “lone wolf” terrorist with a single bomb, or even a private plane as the terrorist Joseph Stack proved in Austin, Texas. We also know that we have been incredibly lucky to have had few attacks on the U.S. homeland since 9/11.
But we have had more than luck. We have had many dedicated American law enforcement and government individuals giving their lives to ensure Americans’ safety, and there has been a massive network of volunteers who have kept their eyes open for Americans. We also not forget the power of teamwork and trust among Americans. We must not forget that on May 1, Muslims and non-Muslims together helped to notify the police to prevent the Times Square bombing.
As long as we are a UNITED States of America, we are bound by the same common cause of our democracy, our human rights, and our shared survival. We must not allow the power of trust and power of unity to be disintegrated by fear.
As long as we are enslaved to fear, we have no independence. As long as fear rules our lives, we will never be free, no matter how we try to justify such fear of people of other identity groups, religions, races, genders, and ethnic groups. Fear destroys all, and it destroys our very freedoms. Fear is un-American.
America is the land of the free and the home of the brave.
On this Independence Day, let’s remember this and let’s break the chains that enslave many Americans to hate and fear. Declare independence from hate and fear in our lives.
Let’s stand up for such freedom and bravery to the world.
Show the world what it really means to be an American.