July 4 is Independence Day in the United States. Many Americans have mixed feelings about this day. As our friends at the Network of Spiritual Progressives wrote several years ago:
"Faced with July 4th celebrations that are focused on militarism, ultra-nationalism, and 'bombs bursting in air,' many American families who do not share those values turn July 4th into another summer holiday focused on picnics, sports, and fireworks, while doing their best to avoid the dominant rhetoric and bombast.
"This year that kind of celebration is particularly difficult when many of us are in mourning as we watch our government commit to keep fighting the trillion dollar a year war in Afghanistan while cutting social programs for the poor, the elderly, schools, environment, and other pressing human needs."
Yet, NSP continues, there is much that is good in American history to celebrate — remarkable advancements brought about by our leaders but also by "ordinary and extraordinary Americans whose struggles brought about those changes." Rabbi Michael Lerner has created a ritual for celebrating what is good about the United States of America. To see the entire "Interdependence Day Celebration for July 4" visit Tikkun.org. He suggests we begin by reading the Declaration of Independence, followed by expressions of thanks.
Read the transcript of the Declaration of Independence: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html
And so we pray this news.
On this July 4th, we celebrate and give thanks:
- "To the waves of immigrants from all parts of the world who struggled to accept each other and find a place in this country.
- "To the escaped slaves and their allies — particularly Quakers, evangelical Christians, and freedom-loving secularists — who built the underground railroad and helped countless people to freedom.
- "To the coalitions of religious and secular people — women and men, black and white — who built popular support for the emancipation of the slaves.
- "To the African Americans and allies who went to prison, lost their livelihoods, and were savagely beaten in the struggle for civil rights.
- "To the working people who championed protections like the eight-hour day, minimum wage, workers' compensation, and the right to organize, often at great personal cost to them.
- "To the immigrants who fought against "nativist" tendencies and refused to close the borders of this country to new groups of immigrants, and who continue to support a policy of "welcoming the stranger" just as this country opened its gates to their ancestors when they were the immigrants and strangers, and to all who fight for the safety and decent treatment of immigrants.
- "To the women who risked family, job security, and their own constructed identities to shift our collective consciousness about men and women and raise awareness of the effects of patriarchy.
- "To all of those who risk scorn and violence and often lose their families to lead the struggle against homophobia and for the acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and queer people.
- "To those who continue to work for equal access for people with disabilities.
- "To those who advocate for sensitivity to animals and to the earth itself.
- "To all of the innovators and artists who have brought so much beauty and usefulness into our lives.
- "To those who fought to extend democratic principles not only in politics but also in the workplace and in the economy.
- "To those who developed innovations in science and technology, in literature and art, in music and dance, in film and in computer science, in medical and communication technologies, and in methods to protect ourselves from the destructive impacts of some of these new technologies.
- "To those who developed psychological insights and increased our ability to be sensitive to our impact on others.
- "To those who developed ecological awareness.
- "To those who brought the insights of their own particular religious or spiritual traditions that emphasized love and caring for others and generosity toward those who had been impoverished and sought to turn those ideas not only into a call for personal charity but also into a mission to transform our economic and political systems in ways that would reflect those values.
- "To those who fought for peace and nonviolence, and who helped stop many wars.