Time for an authentic Fourth of July
The Fourth of July is a time to celebrate our freedoms and be glad we do not live in other places in the world, where freedom is a crime.
As individuals, we desire to have positive self-esteem. Along with our self-esteem, though, is another pesky fellow, known as our shadow. It’s our dark side that dwells in our unconscious (along with a lot of really positive, creative content) and serves to trip us up from time to time, even when we think we have all our ducks in a row.
As with individuals, so with nations.
As Americans, we rightly feel very good about the great plot lines of our history: the courageous traversing of the ocean, the revolution that gave birth to a nation unlike any other in history, a place where all people are constitutionally considered equal, a civil war that ended slavery and the great civil rights accomplishments in our own era for minorities, women and gays. We really should be proud of our country, with all it has done and strives to do, when being true to its ideals.
At the same time, to integrate all of the best of America into the actual experience of all Americans, we need to be reflecting on our national shadow and yearning to transform it. This is the path to greater authenticity, as our ideals and reality match up more thoroughly.
Paradoxically, the most striking aspect of our shadow is the feeling of superiority seeming to characterize many white people (shadow/white is the paradox). Many black people would say all white people are racists, because we have acquiesced in, and benefitted from, the organizational structure of America, which favored white people over people of other ethnicities.
For 400 years, our black brethren were enslaved, enabling the cotton culture to create the foundational wealth of America. How many of those slaves enjoyed the fruits of their labor?
In order to establish many of these cotton plantations, the inconvenient “Injuns” had to be moved across the Mississippi, uprooted in the most callous manner imaginable, often in the wake of ignored treaty promises. According to history.com, “By the close of the Indian Wars in the late 19th century, fewer than 238,000 indigenous people remained, a sharp decline from the estimated five million to 15 million living in North America when Columbus arrived in 1492.”
So, yes, let us salute the flag as it passes by in parades all over the country this Fourth, and, yes, let us be proud of the good that is in us. At the same time, let us be aware that the same flag we salute once flew over slave plantations; the same flag appeared over the crest of the hill when the cavalry came to wipe out entire Native settlements. All part of the “arrogance of power” Senator Fulbright warned us of in the 1970s.
The Fourth of July, it’s a time to be authentic.
Bill O’Brien is a consciousness coach and shamanic practitioner. He and his wife Linda have lived in Shepherdstown since 2005. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.