July 4, 2011
I know a little more history these days, enough to know that few persons’ deeds ever match their rhetoric. Those who talk freedom are not always the ones who sacrifice of themselves to win it. And American freedom has far too often been at the expense of others’ bondage: slaves, women, native peoples, the poor in this land and others.
The very term “independence” rings oddly when we know that independence is a fiction, whether we are talking about “individuals” (who only exist in families and communities), the global political-economy, or the interconnection of all things (dependent origination).
Yet the fourth day in July is a good occasion to remember and reflect what is best about this land that I love. This Fourth, I'd like to highlight three things I value about my native land.
Freedom is linked to opportunity and justice. “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men [people] are created equal;
Welcome the stranger. In his book The Island at the Center of the World about the early Dutch history of New York, Russell Shorto sketches an intriguing case for the way New York City’s flagship role in the American experience is due to the relative openness and tolerance practiced by the Dutch and carried forth by their polyglot heirs.
The United States of America, except for our native peoples who first inhabited the land, and for the descendents of slaves, brought and kept here against their will, is a nation of immigrants. Our diversity is one of our greatest strengths. Our culture is jazz – which is to say we are the beneficiaries of the frisson, or sizzle which happens when cultures meet, ideas and goods are exchanged, peoples intermarry.
The illustration to the right is the American flag at Chuang Yen Monastery, a Pure Land Buddhist and mostly Chinese community near Carmel, NY. It flies outside the Great Buddha Hall, and overlooks statues of Buddhist saints and the community's large ceremonial drum. In every age, immigrants have come to America to make this land their land, and to enrich the rest of us through their presence.
God bless America - land that I love.
The Post-9/11 American flag painting hangs at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, artist unknown.