At 10 am on July 4th from the balcony of the Old State House in Boston, the Declaration of Independence echoed through the narrow streets just as it did 240 years earlier. This time, police on motorcycles and confetti surrounded the crowd. Some things have changed.
I followed the text of the Declaration on my phone. Beyond taxation without representation, so many conditions of the text stung me. The oppression that began the rebellion against King George, that spurred Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride, that motivated what we now snarkily call the Boston Tea Party, manifests in so many ways in our country. The text states these reasons for declaring independence against the monarchy:
- For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
- For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:
- For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:
- For imposing taxes on us without our consent:
- For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:
- For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:
- For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:
- For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:
- For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
How best to celebrate this day? I wondered.Can I really wear red, white, and blue and pretend like the tyrant King George doesn’t manifest in our government, our society, our communities? How would those who are forced to live in this system that keeps so many “out” declare their independence when there is no ship, no new land? These questions plagued me as the sky lit up with fire.
On July 5th I arrived at the Center greeted by a Turkish student who is in process to becoming a US citizen. “How was your fourth?” I asked, expecting a somewhat solemn answer.
“You know…it was really good to be out and together as a city. It felt like the Boston Marathon. I loved it.”
Being together as a city. Suddenly, images of the day before flashed in my mind. A father trying to keep up with his three kids as they rushed excitedly over the bridge before the firework show. A group of friends acting silly together and laughing. Feeling the heat and light of the sun and gazing at the reflective deep blue ocean water along the harbor. There is joy all around, I remember. It’s moments we don’t often notice that really keep us alive. I am glad to have felt such community yesterday.
Holding myself and my country accountable is really difficult sometimes. I hear statements such as “but it’s gotten better, right?” and “we only hear about the bad things. Overall, people are good”. I don’t know if these statements are true or even helpful. Relativism does not heal the pain felt by so many in this moment. This afternoon, some students and I sat on the grass holding silence in honor of the victims of violence as far away from me as Dhaka and as close as just across campus. Providing this space is one of the only ways I feel like an ally. Focusing on the pain of individuals and celebrating their triumphs is what makes sense- for in a world rife with violence, we must recognize moments of peace as nothing short of miracles.