A Couple of Fourth of July Speeches
Here is scene from John Adams in which the Declaration of Independence is read publicly for the first time. It still moves me.
And here is the other side of the American founding that white Americans still don’t want to face up to or discuss:
It is idle to ask “Which oratory is true of America?” Both are. The Revolutionaries saw themselves as the oppressed ones in a fight with Britain. Their universe of discourse no more included their black slaves than the universe of discourse of most pro-choice people includes the unborn. They lived in a structure of sin that made it easy for them to not see what they very much did not want to see or think about and made it doubly easy to tell themselves the vile lie that, really, it wasn’t so bad. Asking whether they or the Structure of Sin was to blame for that seems to me like asking which blade on the scissors does the cutting. That’s how structures of sin work.
And that why Frederick Douglass lived forever by the code “Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!” It is the code of prophets reaching all the way back to Israel. Because it is the duty of the prophet to tell those at ease in Zion, or Athens, or Richmond, or Mar a Lago
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the LORD will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My delight is in her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. (Is 62:1–5)
What is often overlooked is that the prophets, in addition, to being religious figures, are the most intensely patriotic people in history. It is because they love, not hate, their country and their people that they rage at their country’s sin. They don’t want their country destroyed. They want her perfected, glorious, without any spot or wrinkle. They long, more than anything, for happily ever after, not smoldering ruin. So they put up with a torrent of hostility from their countrymen because they cannot and will not budge from that hope.
Happy Fourth! God bless America, because if he doesn’t, how can she hope to ever get better? After all, she has no virtue of her own to boast of.