When you look back far enough, every person in this country is an immigrant. The Native American tribes and First Nations peoples came first, across the waters and across the land bridges. This was their land for thousands of years.
But we who claim European, African, and Asian ancestry are all recent immigrants. We are only here because our parents and grandparents found a place where they could raise their family in relative safety, and forced their way in. Some were brought here against their will, but stayed, hoping to find a better life. It wasn’t easy, and those times were difficult.
In some ways, Independence Day celebrates the possibilities, the promise that lives in every human being, and which our founders also saw and hoped to preserve. Yes, these men were flawed, as are all human beings, but they were freethinkers.
When you read historical accounts written at the time by the men and women who lived the American Revolution, you discover it was about so much more than simply breaking away from England. It was a time of revolution all over the western world, also happening in Great Britain, and in France, and across Europe. It was a tidal wave of freedom of thought.
These freethinkers discussed their ideas. They wrote books on philosophy and natural history and writing some of the greatest works of fiction, works that still figure largely in our literary canon.
History shows us that when dictators come to power, they begin cleansing society of the unwanted, usually starting with the immigrants. Then they move on to those whose faith is the “wrong” religion, and then to the freethinkers, burning books that espouse ideas contrary to the new regime. Clergy, artists, writers, entertainers, and philosophers become enemies of the state and risk imprisonment for “perilous thinking.”
We live in a time where narrow minds are poised to snatch freedoms we take for granted from us.
We run the risk of losing 242 years of the right to bear thoughts, dangerous, incendiary things if left lying around where just anyone can find them.
Today we are still allowed to argue politics and discuss religion freely. We still have access to the internet and can discuss books and the impact they make on us as readers. Those of us fortunate enough to be protected by proof of citizenship will celebrate the 4th of July with our children, in the safety of our home. We will celebrate in our small ways, protected by the freedoms firmly espoused in 1776 document that begins with the words “We the People,” and signed by the founding fathers.
We are decent people, trying to live good lives. Individually, we don’t see ourselves as exclusionary or cruel. We believe in the greater good, and because we do, change will come. The face of America will evolve.
Immigrants have always come to America and always will, and they will be a part of what makes this nation a good place to live. We will find common ground because this is a small planet in a large universe, and right now, we have nowhere else to go. Change and growth are never easy.