Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Independence (For Some) Day

Reflecting on the Fourth of July And Poverty

I have been wearing my flag shirt all week as a shield to protect against someone throwing a burning flag at me. I hear that flag burning is out of control in this country and we all need some way to stop this desecration of our nation's symbol. Then I thought about the ethics of driving over the speed limit (breaking the law) with a flag shirt on. Is that desecration of the flag? Then I thought of the flag that is flying over the government sanctioned Guantanamo Bay prison Cuba, which nearly every other country in the world considers an abomination against the rule of law. Is that a desecration of the flag? Then I thought about those soldiers in Iraq who were torturing people at Abu Ghraib prison, disguising murders, raping women, and overseeing other atrocities while wearing the flag on their arms. Is that a desecration of the flag? I thought about the flag waving outside of the Texas death house or the one outside of our embassy in Khartoum, Sudan as we watch a genocide unfold, and I wonder. I decided that maybe it was more important to start protecting the founding principles, values, personal liberties, and checks on power that is the basis of America instead of just the symbol of those ideas.

In nearly every city in the United States there are between 15 and 40% of the population that do not feel free today. These are the individuals living with poverty every day. Those living in a homeless shelter today do not feel free to stay out and watch the fireworks. Those living without health care do not feel free to be sick. Those who do not have textbooks in their classes do not feel free to read about freedom riders, the struggle for independence, or the fight to get women the vote. Those who do not have a decent income do not feel free to travel to Philadelphia to see Independence Hall or the Liberty Bell. How do we have the nerve to debate a flag burning amendment when we never even passed the Equal Rights Amendment for women? Anyway, freedom is in the eye of the beholder, and in this country that prides itself on being the best at everything (except soccer and playing nice with others) there are many who feel shackled and therefore do not feel we have the best democracy on the planet.

It is all too confusing so I just stopped thinking and sat and listened to Ray Charles sing America the Beautiful, Woody Guthrie, and Johnny Cash American Series on repeat all day.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

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