As we approach our July 4th national Celebration of Independence, our torn and divided nation has an opportunity to pause for a moment to consider what it means to be an American. I wrote yesterday about the cultural appropriation of Memorial Day here in Hawai’i.
Freedom Does Not Mean Doing Whatever You Want.
It Means Having The Freedom To Do What Is Right
We are currently dividing on lines of sex — men v. women; location — rural v. urban; race — White v. People of Color; age — young v. old; income — 1% v. 99%; political ideology — conservative v. progressive; class — owner v. employee.
As a political scientist, I’ve never seen such forces of division in our young nation. I wasn’t around in 1860 but can’t imagine people were this empowered to dislike each other at that time. It seems everyone is upset and wants to fight.
UPDATE: Discovered this picture on social media (see SOURCES). Face of Megan Anna Rapinoe is superimposed on that of George Washington. Theme is USA Women Soccer defeating England in World Cup. Notice the flag?
The flag in the picture is the Betsy Ross flag that Nike and Colin Kaepernick (CK) disrespect. Rapinoe forced the U.S. Soccer Federation to amend their rules, as she joined CK protesting the American flag. Now she is “honored” in a picture with the flag they claim to despise. They have no idea of history.
This pampered, spoiled athlete steals the honor of that memory. General Washington, his men, and the women who supported them suffered tragically to defeat the British and win our freedom. This freedom led to the end of slavery.
The freedom won by the original Patriots earned in blood allows CK and Rapinoe to receive incredible wealth playing a beautiful game they love — yet they spit on that flag, which has given them so much. Disgusting and ungrateful display of character!
My grandmother, Wilma Knudsen, married a Danish immigrant from the island of Zealand, suffered WWI, the Great Depression and WWII. She lived a vibrant and healthy life to nearly 100. She cautioned endlessly about our growing selfishness and greed.
Each generation naturally wants more and better for their children. At some point, people simply expect too much. My grandmother believed society needed to suffer a war or calamity of sorts to “reset” expectations.
Her grade school was primarily Caucasion infused with People of Color. Kamala Harris discussed her history with school busing during the last debate. The U.S. Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. This picture was taken in 1953. There was no racial segregation in Idaho. Life was hard in this remote rural area. People were judged on their merit and ability to be civil with each other.
Looking at our internal strife, the current economic situation and impending disaster on the environmental front, if Americans truly want a fight, we may soon get our wish.
What Does the Flag Mean to You?
Nike is in hot water this week for releasing a shoe displaying the flag hand-sewn by Betsy Ross. It’s similar to our modern flag but contains a circle of stars representing each of the original thirteen colonies — that became our first American states.
Colin Kaepernick, a current Nike advisor who created divisive controversy by kneeling during the national anthem in NFL games, told the company it shouldn’t sell a shoe with a symbol he and others consider offensive.
President Barack Obama had warned against a “certain kind of rigidity” among progressives. Two Betsy Ross flags featuring 13 stars arranged in a circle were prominently draped behind him on the U.S. Capitol during his 2013 inauguration.
The issue of slavery was feverishly debated at the Philadelphia Convention that took place from May 25 to September 17, 1787 in the old Pennsylvania State House. Members came to revise the League of States. They ended up writing the Constitution of the United States of America. The building was later renamed Independence Hall and we refer to the event as the Constitutional Convention today.
Slavery was widespread in the states at the time of the Convention. At least a third of the Convention’s 55 delegates owned slaves, including all of the delegates from Virginia and South Carolina. Slaves comprised approximately one-fifth the population of states. Apart from northernmost New England, where slavery had largely been eliminated, slaves lived throughout all regions of the country.
The majority of slaves (over 90%) lived in the South, where approximately a third of families owned slaves. In the largest and wealthiest state, Virginia, that number was nearly 1 in 2 families.
The entire agrarian economy of the South was based on slave labor and Southern delegates to the Convention were unwilling to accept any proposals they believed would threaten the institution.
A second major obstacle to forming an agreement was the fear rural land holders had about large cities and their population centers. The Connecticut Compromise led to the creation of six-year terms for U.S. Senators — two per state; and two-year terms for U.S. Representatives based on state population.
States would be equal in the Senate. The House would give preference to larger population regions. At this time, supporters of Hillary Clinton claim she should be president as she won the national popular vote.
This was not the intent of the Compromise. Some 15 states have now changed their electoral college delegate allocation process to represent the national popular vote. They have removed states from their role in the selection of our national chief.
End Slave Trading in 1808
One important consideration was the agreement between northern and southern delegates to empower Congress to end slave trade starting in 1808. Both the British and Americans did that year.
About half the entire slave trade of the 18th century were from British, Portuguese and French groups who carried an estimated of nine out of ten slaves abducted in Africa — primarily from the region of Angola.
Dark-skinned Africans played a direct role in the slave trade by selling their captives or prisoners of war to European buyers. Captive slaves were considered “other” and not part of the people of the ethnic group or tribe.
Dark-skinned African kings held no particular loyalty to them. Sometimes criminals would be sold so that they could no longer commit crimes in that area. Most other slaves were obtained from kidnappings or raids that occurred at gunpoint through joint ventures with the Europeans
Should slaves be counted as part of the population determining representation of the states in the Congress or instead considered solely as property and not considered for purposes of representation?
States with large populations of slaves wanted slaves considered persons when determining representation, but as property if the government planned to levy taxes on states based on population.
States where slavery had become rare argued slaves should be counted as people for tax purposes, but not for determining representation. James Wilson proposed the Three-Fifths Compromise, which was eventually adopted by the Convention.
The Fourth of July isn’t a celebration of the United States of America. We remember this day as our declaration of independence from King George of England. We’ve all heard and recited the words. Let’s take a moment to consider a few of them them again here:
IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
American Civil War
America did not start off perfectly. We are not perfect today. It took a national civil war to end the immoral practice of slavery. Yet the Declaration of Independence set the precedence for an infant new people and social experiment where all men are created equal.
Slaves were not considered human beings, but simply property such as animals — by people here in the new land, Europe and Africa. The U.S. Constitution changed this by considering them three-fifths. Our nation and human history was evolving.
In 1860 President Lincoln took this nation to war. My great, great grandfather, Robert A. Lower, served as a union soldier in that conflict. He was one of 19 survivors from a volunteer regiment of 110 men. They did not own or know slaves. Yet all engaged in mortal combat and 91 died to bring them freedom. They fought to do what is right.
My grandfather apparently acted valiantly and with great bravery at the Siege of Vicksburg. He earned the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Moses Freed the Hebrew Slaves
The Bible tells a story how dark-skinned Africans of Egypt enslaved the Hebrews. The United States of America did not invent slavery. But we did set in motion the process to eliminate it and finally ended the practice in a terrible war that concluded in 1865.
Colin Kaepernick (CK) refuses to stand before this flag. This is his right as a U.S. citizen — a right guaranteed in American blood. Protesting as an employee is not a promised right. Thus, his controversial action complicates our enjoyment of sporting events.
I am disappointed in both CK and Nike for creating this divisive action over the flag hand-sewn by Betsy Ross. Her original work was not perfect — nor was this nation. Yet it represented the freedom to do what is right.
This should never be an embarrassment to any American Citizen.
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Ko’olau of Kaua’i. I am the Defiant One
“I Believe We Can”
General George Washington and army crossing the frigid Delaware river.