Today, we celebrate the founding of our United States of America on July 4th, 1776—with our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, 240 years ago today. The beginning lines of the Declaration of Independence (image above, and link to history quiz) reads (as excerpted below):
“The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. …”
One of the driving principles behind this July 4th, 1776 push for separation was the much bandied populist phrase taxation without representation. The then thirteen states in the American Colonies where heavily taxed by the British Government, but they did not participate in any shared governance with meaningful representation. So our ancestors—or predecessors, depending upon how long people’s families have lived and been citizens here in the U.S.– were disenfranchised from deciding their own fates and futures.
Does that sound familiar? With the recent focus upon Britain’s own secession from the European Union (EU) —some of the same arguments were used. However, the vote by British citizens to separate from the EU was more successful than many hoped—with even those voting for it regretting their yes vote after the vote tallies were made known–due to the economic and cultural exchange benefits of remaining a participating nation in the EU.
And if Britain does not want to become totally isolated economically from the EU countries, British trade with EU countries will still require them to adhere to basic EU trading rules—namely allowing free labor markets for employment (which implies easier immigration policies), the issue that supposedly caused the passing vote for Brexit.
That is about the gist of what I know about what came to be known as Brexit – which stands for British Exit from the EU—apart from the concerns expressed across various news (including analysts at the U.S. Wall Street Journal on June 24th, 2016) and social media here in the U.S. and abroad about the for Brexit vote being disastrous for Britain and trading partner countries. The verity of that concern was felt immediately as British, European, and U.S. economic markets decreased in value the day following the British vote to leave the EU—as did the British Pound decrease in value (June 24, 2016 Telegraph article excerpted below):
“The economic tremors following Britain’s decision to leave the European Union have already spread across the globe as financial markets around the world were hit this morning.
Sterling has fallen to its lowest level since 1985 and the sharp fluctuations in the markets are threatening the stability of the global economy.”
Though BBC News online June 29th, 2016 urged for a “reality check” against some of the frenzied social media dire economic predictions that came out the days immediately surrounding the Brexit vote–and that the depressed British markets and currencies have since rallied somewhat, at least for the value of the British Pound.
But I digress. What I want to focus upon with my essay here was how the United States historical acceptance of immigration to our shores—hence the British Brexit connection– is proudly and unabashedly championed at the Statue of Liberty (image right) (Statue facts) with the Emma Lazerus poem, The New Colossus (excerpted below)—with the second stanza being the most famous:
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
And in song, “Give me your tired, your poor”,
words by Emma Lazerus, music by Barbara Klaskin Silberg (copyright 2000);
sung by the West Los Angeles Children’s Choir, in a video by Barbara Silberg:
One side of my family came from Germany in the 1860’s to 1870’s and our British side came over to the U.S. well before 1776—because we do have an ancestor who fought in the U.S. Revolutionary War that was from 1775 to 1783. And as U.S. President Barack Obama stated in 2014 before launching sweeping immigration reform, “We are a nation of immigrants”. And therein lies our nation’s strength–the fabric of our nation is woven from the contributions, innovations, and achievements of so many from a variety of heritages and ethnicities. We are a tapestry of interwoven histories made beautiful and strong by our combining our strengths.
So when we in the U.S. or folks in Britain or elsewhere adopt a we versus them ideology—that tries to promote keeping out foreigners—it seems to me to be unproductive and unworkable at best, and hypocritical at worst to espouse such a stance. Okay, the Brits might appropriately make claims that their society has been around for thousands of years. Yet, the influences of other cultures in Britain through conquest (Romans, 55 BC and through the 410 AD; Viking Raids from 793-850 AD, economic trade, etc.) and immigration cannot be discounted for shaping and empowering that nation for the better.
So I wish for my British cousins—32 times removed—and we in the U.S. and elsewhere to consider thoughtfully and reflectively upon what makes our nations great? With the Brits and Yanks having long ago healed the breach from our Declaration of Independence— letting bygones be bygones. Well, mostly.
And the U.S. will face its own crucible of decision making with the upcoming presidential elections in November 2016. As I reflect upon what this upcoming presidential election vote means to me, I find that it revolves around several fundamental and essential questions:
1) Why do some individuals in our country want to deny U.S. citizenship to honest, hard working individuals—many whose children and/or grandchildren are born here and are U.S. citizens—and families who hope to formally immigrate to our country, when in our own families the immigrant story and experience is not so very different, nor that long ago? How might the isolationist few (I hope) but vocal political factions be defeated?
2) How can some higher waged/income individuals promote a lower wage earning for other individuals as a means of increasing corporate profits–not profitability, which already exists in many instances—when common sense (let alone economics) suggests that people who earn more money than at or below the poverty threshold, are better able to provide for their families and that they contribute to a rising economy and corporate profits by virtue of them having more or any money to spend in the economy, beyond the basics of food, clothing, and shelter?
3) When can we all proudly and respectfully adhere to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human rights that says in part (with the first three of the 30 articles excerpted below)?:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
With personal safety being at issue here in the U. S. and elsewhere in the world, Article 3 is very much on my mind these days. Sadly, no country is immune to violence, national disasters, and human suffering. And with me working at a university–blessed with teachers and staff from around the world, we are like a mini United Nations. And so when I hear of a tragedy elsewhere in the world, I think of a friend or colleague with family who lives there—worrying for them and keeping them in my prayers. I have also known Holocaust survivors whose own and their family members’ stories are horrific, and yet they persevered with courage and determination to rebuild their lives and contribute positively to society. Gender, race, sexual orientation, and differently abled issues are also ones close to my heart.
With voting and participating in shared governance being at the crux of what precipitated our U.S. Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July 1776, this 4th of July my thoughts focus on exercising the right to vote—that women citizens in our country have only had the right to do as a whole since 1920, a mere 96 years ago. And in that right for U.S. women to vote–that U.S. women had been striving for since the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention–had reflected a remarkable patience, determination, and strategy for 72 years. Here is a video for you to enjoy:
“Bad Romance – Women’s Suffrage (inspired by Alice Paul)”, of a Lady Gaga song, a video by Laura Moon
originally available via http://www.soomolearning.com/suffrage/
And something so hard won as the right to vote by women generations before me, is a privilege and a right that I value and respect. So the U.S. presidential candidate who will get my vote come November will be a champion for all peoples—working for the greater good, not just for a privileged few. And the individual receiving my vote for president will also have the experience and vision to lead this nation into a better future for all of our citizens—and our as yet hoped for citizens.
I will not declare my particular inclination for the U.S. presidential candidate vote. Rather I urge U.S. men and women citizens eligible to vote, to become informed about the candidates, their positions on issues, their vision for the future, and their experience in governmental decision making–and then to vote their conscience. The people of all faiths and heritages who fought for our freedoms and for the greater good for all—paying often with their lives—deserve our respect and remembrance as we exercise our right and privilege to vote.
Happy 4th of July! May peace, love, harmony, and respect abide in and with each of us this July 4th
P.S. And as a prezzie for those of you who slogged through my three page essay above celebrating our 4th of July Independence Day, enjoy:
“Lady Gaga – Star Spangled Banner (Live at Super Bowl 50)”, video via LadyGagaVEVO