4th of July 2015
On this 4th of July holiday, I am deep in thought about being American. The holiday celebrates the “greatness” of the United States, the land of the free and home of the brave.
But I am troubled about what I teach my son. Is there a place for him, for us? Will our mixed-race family be accepted among the sea of white families wearing red, white, and blue, waving the stars and stripes, driving nice cars to nice picnics and nice fireworks shows? Is this nice? Is this the picture of greatness?
The Working Poor on the 4th of July
My husband just started a new job. He desperately needs this work after a long period of unemployment. But his boss called and unexpectedly required him to work a shift from 8:00 pm to 3:00 am for the 4th of July. The job was over the river and Oregon state line in Vancouver, Washington. It is very difficult to take the bus there during peak times, and there are simply no buses that run there in the middle of the night. When he told his boss this fact, she accused him of lying. She has never taken a bus, but she says she “knows” that they run all the time.
So now we must choose between paying for an $80 taxi ride, jeopardizing our rent this month, or refusing the assignment and jeopardizing his new job. (He will also be basically working for free because he won’t make much more than $80 on the shift).
Of course we choose to pay for his job, because we do not want to struggle again with unemployment, and the job is good in the long run. But it is so sad that in the land of the free, we, and so many others, must worry constantly about rent.
Oh, the irony. This scenario must be happening to millions of low wage workers around the country on this holiday celebrating the independence of this “great” nation. My husband will be working an event that costs hundreds of dollars to attend. He must give up his few dollars and his own holiday to make sure the rich people have a nice time on their holiday.
I guess in the land of the brave, the low wage workers are the bravest people, sacrificing their own holiday, and their own money, so that others can have a nice holiday.
Teaching my son about the 4th of July and bombs bursting in air
While my husband is at work, I need to decide how, or if, I will celebrate with my son. He is five and beginning to understand social studies, fairness, and a world far beyond his family and friends. Right now he is interested in the civil rights movement. At the library he checked out kids books about sit-ins and Martin Luther King, as well as books about peace.
What do I teach him about celebrating a nation that still judges people on the color of their skin and the content of their bank account? How do I explain to him the meaning of peace in a holiday glorifying “bombs bursting in air,” in a country that has been in almost continuous war since its founding?
What would Jesus do?
Jesus never celebrated Roman holidays although he lived in a Roman land. Jesus celebrated God’s miracles on the Jewish holidays. Jesus never talked about celebrating countries and earthly independence. Jesus preached often about God’s heavenly kingdom and the importance of human interdependence.
Jesus celebrated Peace. Love. Caring for one another. The poorest on earth are the richest in heaven.
The brave path of Jesus means sacrificing greed and power to welcome God’s kingdom on earth. If the United States will embrace peace and compassion, rather than bombs and power, we will truly be a great nation.
A 4th of July Prayer
On this 4th of July, I bless the least of these. I pray for all the low wage workers forced to choose between their families and their jobs.
I pray for a nation that engages in peace and love, rather than racial and class warfare. I pray for a nation that practices greatness by leading in compassion and world peace. I pray for a nation where someday everyone will be free of fear of homelessness and hunger.
I pray for a nation that will someday follow the brave path of Jesus, sacrificing greed and power to welcome God’s kingdom on earth.
Father, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen
Be blessed, American friends, on this 4th of July.