America, in all the grandeur of its history – its fireworks, music and patriotic pomp – has very little to be proud of.
As a Lakota, when I hear “home of the brave,” I think of the Massacre at Wounded Knee, where innocent children, women, and old men, were mercilessly slaughtered. I am also reminded of Mankato Minnesota, where Abraham Lincoln sanctioned the public hanging of 38 innocent Dakota men simultaneously, on custom gallows in the town square.
I could go on and on about the numerous massacres “America” unapologetically committed upon my Native people. To these old Indian eyes, the self-celebration on the Fourth of July is absurd and incongruous, as opposed to the general assumption that this is a great country. It borders on surreal that a nation with this chronicled past would pause to immerse itself in such pride given its swept-under-the-rug history of atrocities. Atrocities aimed at one purpose: The near annihilation – and continued attempts – to commit genocide on a proud people whose only opposing cause was to protect its people and their way of life.
Not only did America eliminate those innocents who stood in its path, it eliminated its own due to differences in ideology. A cold example of what I reference is the Civil War. There was nothing “civil” about it. Some 630,000 souls met their demise over the ownership of African slaves and a collective statehood.
I am an American – not by choice, but by occupation. Before you insist that, if I don’t like it I should just go home, I remind you: I am home! Unlike those who have occupied, this is my ancestral home. Allow me to emphasize that our Native people were not defeated in battle, nor did we ever surrender, we were occupied and our lands were stolen by declarations of the occupying government.
Here is another example of America’s false pride: The caption over the entrance to the United States Supreme Court reads, “Equal Justice Under The Law.” Yet, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese-American citizens were denied their rights and forcibly made to divest themselves of belongings and property. As if that were not degrading enough, they were then forcibly transported to armed “concentration” camps. The government never had proof these citizens were in any way a threat to American “democracy.” Our Native reservations today were a precursor to, and remain a continuation of, that same mindset based on fear and the will to dominate.
So, on the next Fourth of July, as you stand and sing the Star Spangled Banner, or recite the Declaration of Independence, you might reflect too on America’s history of “speaking with a forked tongue.” Not all Americans are “equal under the law,” and millions of Americans have never been acknowledged to have “unalienable rights.”
I could go on, but I hope I have, at the very least, inspired you to seek the truth, however painful you might find it. It remains the truth. Yes, we are Americans, by one sense or another, but let us not pretend to be what we are not: “The home of the brave.”