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Independence Day 2010: Awakening the Truth

Jill Garvey • Jul 02, 2010

Two years ago Imagine 2050 was just starting out - tentatively testing our readers’ willingness to openly discuss race, American identity and the next 40 years. In honor of Independence Day I wrote an article about why the fourth of July was my favorite holiday. Back in 2008 I was all about reminiscing - writing of blissfully innocent July fourth celebrations from a childhood filled with family, fireworks, and lots of food.

Last year at this time I sat down to examine how my view and the views of many Americans had changed in just one year, writing, “At Imagine 2050 we have watched tragedies unfold that stretched the emotional endurance of our writers, celebrated our heroes, and exposed threats to our freedom. At this moment we are struggling and the outcomes are still unclear. Will we emerge a better nation, a multicultural, tolerant nation?  Or will we fall short, unable to fully embrace the changing face of America? Today we don’t have an answer, but we do have the opportunity to reflect, to celebrate, and yes, even be proud, of a nation that is redefining freedom, mourning our mistakes, finally shedding the bonds of apathy.”

Reading my words now, I can taste the cautious optimism. Back then I thought the young Obama Administration was just getting warmed up. That the political pitch was tensely high, but progress was coming. Boy, was I wrong.This year is different. And at least some of the answers as to why are clear. Many Americans are not only refusing to embrace the changing face of America, they’re trying to reverse it. In the process they are taking attention away from real problems and real culprits. And the poor are both the most harshly affected and most often blamed.

The thing that has changed the most since last July 4th is the divide between perceived truth and the actual truth. Look no further than the tea party. It’s as if open tryouts were held and every angry, racist, gullible, and paranoid American was recruited to a movement without a consistent political agenda that seems to be controlled at any given moment by those with the greatest power of manipulation and nothing else. White Tea Partiers are rabidly scared of the government, when really it’s people of color who should be terrified. If thousands of national guard troops are deployed to respond to a fabricated rumor of violent immigrants at the border, what’s in store for a place like Chicago where violence is real?

In my city over two hundred people have been murdered in the last six months. I pass through neighborhoods that are so familiar to me, that at first glance they seem the same. But upon further inspection are full of empty storefronts, unmowed lawns, and dusty for sale signs hanging creakily from fences.

For many Americans, life is much harder now than it was even one year ago. When we turn on the TV - from Fox news to CNN - we are told there is not enough to go around - that the ocean is eating our oil, we are eating our environment, the banks are eating our homes, and immigrants are eating our jobs. There always seems to be something coming for what little we have left.

But what ails this country isn’t about shortages or immigration or even violence. It’s about economic despair that disproportionately affects people of color. It’s about a system that rewards the haves and punishes the have-nots. It about a nation that still collectively denies that racism plays a big part in who has and who doesn’t.

American freedom is not something we fought for and won 234 years ago. It’s something we should fight for every day.

Here’s to an Independence Day that awakens unity, truth, and justice.

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