The Fourth Of July Has Become a Day of Mourning
For Me and Many Others Who See What America Has Become, July 4 is No Longer a Day of Celebration
My Mayflower ancestors, illegal immigrants from England in 1620, invaded a country not their own. Those immigrants, including Isaac Allerton, Mary Norris, and their children including four-year-old daughter Mary Allerton, were Pilgrim Separatists, seeking religious freedom in a new place. They had been forced to flee their home in England in order to worship as they were called to do, and build a new life in a country far different from what they knew. It was worth giving up everything they had to start a new life, where they could worship as they chose. They stole the country of my Indigenous ancestors, and started a history of genocide, yes. They were seeking freedom, but their Christian religion was a martial one, so they did what they had been taught. Today, we know better. But are we doing better? I have my doubts.
My Revolutionary War ancestors, Captain Obadiah Gore and six of his sons, fought for freedom from the British, to ensure that their descendants lived free from tyranny. Three of Obadiah's sons died in the Massacre of Wyoming (Pennsylvania), when British troops, including Iroquois warriors, attacked Forty Fort, where settlers had taken refuge. "In early June, Colonel John Butler led a force of 1,000 loyalists and Iroquois allies against the 5,000 inhabitants of the valley—mostly American women and children gathered at Forty Fort. About 300 men and boys left the protection of the fort to meet the attackers. In the massacre that followed, 360 men, women, and children lost their lives, and many others who escaped to the forests died of starvation or exposure." My Colonial ancestors were fighting for freedom to live their lives in a new country. My Iroquois ancestors were fighting to oust them from their lands. Many suffered, on both sides. Many died, on both sides. But the United States of America came into being, with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States the basis of our government. And I had ancestors on both sides. (https://www.britannica.com/event/Wyoming-Massacre)
My Civil War ancestors (2x-great-uncles), Mordecai Hills, Billings Hills, and John Hills, fought to preserve the union of states that their forebears had founded nearly one hundred years earlier, serving when called to protect their country from division. They fought to free the slaves held in the South, although I can't say that this was their calling. War is a complicated thing, and motives are difficult to determine when the men involved left no written records. From Tioga County, New York, these men served in the 109th Regiment. My 2x-great-uncle Mordecai Hills died in battle October 11th, 1863. The Union was preserved and the slaves were freed. But we live today with institutional racism imbedded in every part of our national psyche, from individuals to the laws which have been adopted to the people who carry out those laws. Was this what my Civil War ancestors fought for? I'd like to think that they would be appalled by what we have come to, but there is no way to know how these men felt. I do know how I feel. And I AM appalled.
My grandfather Frederick Joseph Lang fought in WWI. My uncles Eugene Lang and Edward Reynolds fought in WWII. My father served in the air force during the Korean War. These men fought to protect the United States, and the world, from the spread of totalitarianism and fascist states trying to undermine our democratic system. My father voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Before his death in 2018 he said that he regretted his decision. He regretted that he had allowed his Republican allegiance to overwhelm his common sense, and to vote for a man who deserved no place in American history. At the end of his life, he had the courage to admit his mistake.
These brave men and many others throughout history have served our country, to protect our freedoms and our lives. Now, sadly, the country they fought for has been co-opted by radical Christian fundamentalists, who have been working for decades to strip us of our rights and freedoms. And my heart has been torn to shreds by their vile actions.
Today, I am not celebrating the Fourth of July. I cannot. After the aggression and dominance of hate groups culminating in the election of the grifter and racist Donald Trump as 45th President of the United States, and their ongoing efforts to subvert the foundation of this democratic nation, I can never look at our flag again with anything but sadness and contempt. My ancestors did not fight for this to be the end of our Union.
I live now in the Southern US. A neighbor recently hung a Confederate flag on his property, a slap in the face to anyone who values racial equality and the preservation of our United States. It made me angry. It made me scared. It made my soul hurt deeply for all of the people he denigrates with this symbol of hatred. It makes me rage that he might think that I - as a Caucasian woman - might approve of this symbol. I need to take action, although I am not a warrior, or in any way confrontational.
So, today, July 4, 2022, I WILL hang a flag in front of my home, to show the country and the world what matters to me. I cannot hang an American flag, with all of the baggage it now carries. Instead, I will hang a line of Buddhist prayer flags, a symbol of peace and acceptance for me. A symbol that the hatred of Christian extremists cannot overpower love and hope. I hang them for myself, and for all of the ancestors who struggled and fought to find a safe place to live out their lives, with the freedom to worship - or not to worship - as they felt called to do. And today and every day, I will continue to use my words to try to spread acceptance and support for the rights of people everywhere.
It may not be much. But if it touches just one heart, I will be fulfilled.
About the author
Hillora Lang feared running out of stuff to read, so she began writing just in case...
While her major loves are fantasy and history, Hillora will write just about anything, if inspiration strikes. If it doesn't strike, she'll nap, instead.