On the day I write this, it is Canada Day, once known as Dominion Day, when traditionally Canadians celebrate the formation of their nation. There apparently is a debate going on in that great country about this celebration as citizens wrestle with issues in their past such as the treatment of the First People of the region. As some Canadians look at their history, they question celebrating a past and point to wrong-doings and the long term consequences for the people, the environment, the country.
This same debate percolates in the United States as we approach July 4th.
Whose freedom? Slavery was to exist for more than another eighty years after the Declaration of Independence was issued, and the long term impact of that inequality still survives today. Women were legally chattel until after slaves were freed. And women still lack economic and social equality with their maie counterparts. What about Native Americans? Deprived of their homes, at times their children, their culture, their resources, they too often exist only as pale shadows of the vibrant people who lived here in the years before Columbus. What about other groups such as the LGBTQ community who still feel less than free? Looking through the lens of injustice and inequality, our past looks dark, and unworthy of being celebrated.
As we approach the 4th of July in the US, we need to be reminded our country, all countries, are works in progress. We are not finished yet. We still have dreams to make reality.
It seems to me that we currently view our pasts in terms of extremes–all good or all bad. The truth is we are mixtures of both. Nations were founded, settled, or emerged from the actions of people, people who by definition were flawed and some of those flaws worked their ways into the fabric of the nation.
Yet to focus only on the flaws diminishes the positives, the productive-but to see only the good and ignore the problems is just as wrong.
The world has not yet created a perfect country. Even Utopian societies created at various times in history have eventually failed. Pieces of our nations have failed. We can weep and wail, or we can work to put those pieces back together. Our repairs can be slipshod and easily fall apart, but we can practice the Japanese technique of Kintsugi. In Kintsugi shattered pieces of pottery are put back together using gold. Not only is the piece made strong and whole, but it is remarkably beautiful.
So when we have days like Canada Day, July 4th, Cape Verde Independence Day or whatever day a country celebrates, we can celebrate our accomplishments while acknowledging we are works in progress.
We have not realized the dream for all people. We cannot erase the past. We accept what was and work to ensure we remedy injustices.
Will it be easy? No
Will it happen overnight? In your dreams…. but you can dream and work for it to happen.