The Failing Experiment: A brief thought on July 4th

About four years ago I was reading the paper in a small town in Minnesota. I read an article by Congressman Mark Kennedy entitled: “The Great Experiment” which discussed the sacrifices many soldiers had made to make this country what it is today. I felt the need to reply in this letter to the editor that you see below. I’ve left it unedited, but I’ll include further thoughts at the end. Surprisingly, the local paper published my letter the following week:

The Failing Experiment
I want to first of all thank Congressman Mark Kennedy for his article concerning this country’s “Independence Day.” There is certainly room for celebration and many of the historical facts he pointed out are worth noting and esteeming. Unfortunately I fear Congressman Kennedy missed out on the whole picture of the American Experiment and I feel the need to complete, or at least add to his summary.
It is true our Experiment has succeeded because of sacrifice, but whose sacrifice? Let us not forget the genocide of the Native Americans – from whom we took and still keep this land. They sacrificed many lives to our “Manifest Destiny.” Even today the effects of this sacrifice are felt and if you dare look, they are still seen. Our brothers and sisters of the human race live on small, infertile plots of land that we’ve forced them to, and the effects of injustice for hundreds of years can be seen clearly today. The Native Americans sacrificed.
Let us remember that the fourth of July is Independence for only part of the citizens of this country. It wasn’t until December 1865 that the denial of freedom (slavery) was abolished by law in this country. And we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that this is a reality today. It takes only a brief look at the statistics to see that even since the Civil Rights movement of the sixties, we are still discriminating against people because of their skin (look up red-lining, the education system, and the demographic layout of most cities). It was on the backs of our brothers and sisters of the human race from Africa that this country began to thrive. It was their sacrifice for which they currently still have never reaped full benefits.
They sacrificed as soldiers too, Africans, Mexicans, Japanese, Native Americans – only to return to a “free” nation where they were discriminated against and treated as less than human. Remember the sacrifice of the American citizens of Japanese decent forced into Internment camps in the Desert. Remember the replacement of slaves with sharecropping and cheap labor from Mexico which we discriminate against yet desperately “need” in order to keep our way of living “affordable” for us.
There are many more groups that have been sacrificed to this American Experiment, but only one more I will note in this summary. They are half the population and for years have fed, clothed, cleaned, and cared for generations of American men. Women, they celebrate their independence on August 26, 1920 when the law at least extended to them the vote. They, like these many other groups, are still fighting for the freedom we will celebrate July 4th.
Celebrate your freedom on Sunday, but open your eyes to reality. Freedom even in America is only for the privileged, unless we choose to make it for everybody. Freedom will never come at the barrel of a gun. It will take sacrifice, sacrifice from you and me, not our lives, but our love. Will you sacrifice with love for that freedom you so enjoy to be extended to all people?

There is probably much more to say on this Independence day about the current state of affairs in our country, but I’ll leave that mostly to your own reflection. Let me only remind you that we celebrate this day while Guantanamo remains operational, are nations attempt to spread “freedom” is showing tragic and horrific results, and racism, sexism and much discrimination still lies unaddressed in our society.

Celebrate the 4th, but please do so with these words in mind.

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35 thoughts on “The Failing Experiment: A brief thought on July 4th”

  1. Great post Ariah. It really puts things into perspective. I wish I knew of a way to better reflect this in a celebration other than eating food and being entertained by flashing lights.

  2. Ariah –

    As true as much of what you say here may be, I’d invite you to compare life for yourself, the descendents of slaves or native peoples, or anyone else here in this country to the plight you or they would have if your lives were lived as a citizen of, say, any country in Central or South America, or Asia, or India, or Africa, or a Muslim country in the Middle East.

    I wonder if after doing so you would still remain, as you always seem to be, focused intensely and only on the shortcomings of America’s history and present rather than any of her blessings or protections or opportunities or benefits, or if you might realize that it is not really that bad here, at the very least by comparison with the alternatives.

    The fact that you have 1) the time on you hands to be able wring them at your keyboard over these shortcomings rather than having to use them to daily scrape roots and worms from the ground for a meal, or fight off a brutal enemy, and 2) the freedom to do so without fear of governmental oppression as a result, ought to help you to realize that we are in fact, even including the poorest, blackest, brownest, and most bohemian among us, chief among the most affluent, easy living, and free people on the planet.

  3. Any blood left in that bleeding heart? You know what the latest and most dangerous trend in modern Christianity is??? Liberalism without facts!
    I won’t even bother with a response to about half of the authors ridiculous rants. You want to know what a real Sioux thinks about the conquest of his people and all the original nations?? read “beneath the Trail of Broken treaties” by Vine Deloria. The guy is a Standing Rock Sioux and amongst the preeminant Indian scholars and amongst the first to admit that conquest is the way of things. It always has been. Blacks have it better now than ever. How fast is fast enough for this guy?
    Where in the Bible does it say we should be ashamed of our country because some minority has found out that whining is easier than working?

  4. Aaron,
    I think that what Ariah was trying to communicate in his original letter to the Editor, was that many times Americans over look the bad things that have happened in our country’s history. We are not a perfect country, why can’t we talk about the things that haven’t gone well in our experiment. Can’t we rejoice in the good and learn from the bad?

    I haven’t heard of Vine Deloria before I’ll have to do a little research. You mentioned that “conquest is the way of things” Is that what Jesus message was about? He did come to conquer death and sin, but in relation to people and governments I believe he took the role of a humble servant, not a conqueror.

  5. Jesus said two very telling things…(a) I didn’t come to change even one punctuation mark of the law. in other words…Jesus wasn’t the slightest bit concerned with the world systems, whether that is government or societal. (b) He said render to Caesar whatever is Caesars and render to God what belongs to God. Meaning…Jesus didn’t even care about government. He didn’t come here to make a difference in the world. He came to make a difference in our hearts.

  6. For what it’s worth, my position ≠ Craig’s. I agree that there has been and is some bad to the American story. My complaint about Ariah’s letter, and forgive me for generalizing, but also his general slant on things, is that he is excessively negative toward America, not to mention the Church, other Christians, and anyone who does not contribute to bettering people’s lives in exactly the way he thinks they should, but I still like the guy.

  7. Great post Ariah! I love the dialog, and I affirm your deep thinking on this issue.

    This is tricky business. America is in need of revisionist history, but that path is always very painful (just ask the Germans), and causes Patriotism to raise it Colonialistic and oppressive shield. I am deeply grieved by the first several centuries of genocide, slavery, and racism that was the foundation of our Nation. Long before the Pilgrims and others from England arrived, the Spanish were cutting off the hands and feet of indigenous Native Americans, and wiping out whole socities (with the exception of keeping the most beautiful women and raping them).

    The big question here is not “Is America Great Nation?” Yes, we are. But we do need to wrestle with and bring justice and reconciliation to how we built our Greatness: on the back of Indigenous Native Americans, imported slaves from all over the stinkin’ globe, and a racist legal and political framework.

    I love America, but we have blood on our hands. We need Jesus to help us wash up and move forward.

    -Pastor C.

  8. hi – nope, don’t have those John Piper Passion talks. in the early 90s i wasn’t even 10 years old, or a Christian. i hope you find them!

    for what it’s worth i liked the previous comment best. and i agree that while “freedoms” are out there (which is good about our country), it doesn’t just happen on its own. left to our own laziness and evil, injustice will always remain and we can’t be blind to where it exists. Christ, and his kind of love, are a good solution.

  9. The way that I see it, Ariah was focusing on the negative to provide a counterbalance to the completely positive article that he was responding to (which is not unique). Fourth of July articles about how absolutely fabulous this country is abound, but its a rare day when examine our corporate sins.

    And wow, Craig. You are exactly what non-christians tell me turns them off about Christianity. In this world, conquest is the way of things but in Christ’s kingdom? No way. Saying that people are better off after conquest is your own subjective opinion, but even if it were true, does the ends justify the means? Certainly we could have made Native Americans and people of African decent better off simply by being good neighbors.

    I know people from all of the marginalized groups that Ariah mentioned in his letter (except illegals, but I know some who have been mistaken for illegals) and none of these people would say that they have been unaffected by prejudice. That’s not to say that there has been no improvement, but it still exists, especially here in the South (I don’t know where you are).

    As a woman, I’ve had painful experiences of discrimination simply because I’m a woman and I’m well aware of the uphill battle that I will experience if I enter the male dominated field that I’m considering. This is not to say that I have no responsibility. My senior paper in college was titled “Subjugation of Self in the Short Stories of Women”. I examined themes in short stories about how we, as women, contribute to our own marginalization. But admitting our participation doesn’t release the oppressor of the need to fess up for his sins.

    Its high time in this country that those with power in the community are honest about the unfair advantage that has been given to them and are willing to share that advantage with those to whom it has not been given. At least in the church this should be so. We should be modeling Christ’s kingdom if we expect to attract people to Christ.

  10. Wow! Maybe you can all get a group rate on a one way ticket out of here. The best thing about this country is that you can actually BE a whining liberal self loathing America basher and still have a venue for your age-old White-guilt bleatings. Enjoy the fourth!

  11. Craig –

    Although I disagree with the post’s sentiment as well, you are being a clod. I say “clod” because I don’t want to get deleted.

    Now, I was pretty annoyed myself, but attemted at least to take a more thoughtful approach. If this is the way you approach all of your disagreements . . . well, it’s just got to be pretty tough to know you.

  12. Oh spare me the mellow drama Craig. The best thing about this country is that we can critique it when it has gone wrong. I don’t wish that anyone would be given a one way ticket out even if their views seems twisted to me. And I don’t loathe myself. I actually quite like myself.

  13. I didn’t say give them one, I suggested they find one on their own. As for us going wrong??? 60% of all charitable aid in the world comes from us.
    People who whine about Guantanamo…when WAS the last time we were attacked om our soil. They should be shutting down Guantanamo, but only because they lined up every last one of those maggots and shot them dead. Then they could convert it to a penal colony for child molesters like thos two animals in Vermont.
    …and here come the remarks about the love of Christ…

  14. You people have all lost sight of one very important fact…make that two.
    (1) Jesus didn’t come here the first time to establish a Theocracy
    (2) In light of the above statement, AMERICA ISN’T A THEOCRACY!
    This nation was founded on Christian ethos and morals but it was NOT, by definition a Christian nation…at least not in the way these Aortic gushers would have us believe. There are PLENTY of scriptural references to national security and soverignity of nations. God told the Israelites to basically use a scorched earth policy when taking the promised land and Jesus refered to the Kingdom of Heaven as being taken hold of aggresively by violent men.
    Revelation speaks of a new heaven and a new earth…why? because as long as there is human nature and as long as there are EVIL men who practice an EVIL religion steeped in hatred and violent intolerance, (islam) there will be a battle between good and evil and it will take place amongst HUMANS. If you deny that you stick your head in the sand and ask for a death sentence.
    When Jesus spoke of meekness He did NOT say WEAKness and he was refering to the one on one interaction between Christians and their immediate societal peers. He was NOT laying down a guideline for national defense.
    We could have tried that in Munich in 1938. Let’s all just be really loving to Hitler and maybe nobody would get hurt.
    Get a grip! You can be loving, Christlike, good, kind, decent, and moral and STILL be nationally secure and strong and kick some serious azz when needed. In fact Jesus demands you do just that!
    As for worrying about social injustices…anyone who says there aren’t already more than enough entitlement programs out there is drinking the liberal kool-aid.

  15. Craig, I’m having a hard time hearing you. I’d love it if you continue to read my blog and comment on what I write, but don’t bother using it as a platform to attack some liberal agenda, it’s not worth any of our time.

    Aaron, I’d love to find other thoughtful and constructively critical commenters like you. I don’t like deleting comments, so feel free to use words other then cold if that’s what you’d do. I trust your judgment. Still considering what you said…

    Indie and Chris and Brian,

    Thanks for your thoughts and support. You hit on a lot of provoking thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Only attacked the liberal agenda that was the topic of your blog. I think what you mean to say is “if you disagree, please post elsewhere”. Too bad. Although it WILL get you a good job on any of the three major TV networks or CNN.
    I gather that you only deem peoples input as “provoking” (actually the word would be provocative when used in the way you just did)if they agree with your original article?
    I would suggest, in that case, you just delete the option to take comments.

  17. I am guessing here, but I suppose you are one of those who found “Rene Marie’s” substitution of the Star Spangled Banner with the “Black national Anthem” though provoking, daring, and you spent the afternoon googling the lyrics and then pondering them thoughtfully, followed by a period of soul searching and repentance, rather than seeing it as the traitorous, racist, divisive, disrespectful act of arrogance that it was?
    C’mon dude…you seem like a great guy! Isn’t life too short to spend every moment looking for something to be sorrowful about? Jesus said take up YOUR cross, not all the crosses!

  18. Craig, thanks for the thoughtful and provocative correction! I could always use help on my grammar.
    As to your other point, I’ll use Aaron as an example, I LOVE and appreciate his comments, though he usually has a point of disagreement when he comments. He however, challenges me at the points I make and provides opportunity for dialog, rather then making sweeping generalizations and personal attacks.

    And for my own benefit, could you point out specifically what the ‘liberal agenda’ was in my blog post? I’d really like to know.

  19. How about the “I hate this country…we screwed the (fill in the blanks) to get here…we owe the world for our success…I am ashamed of slavery even though nobody in my family owned a slave, for to defend slavery or for that matter was even IN America during slavery…this country is a farce and we only got where we are by jobbing every living soul and we should be more ashamed than proud of America. THAT liberal agenda. The same crappy article gets printed in every liberal rag in the US every 4th of July. The same people who immediately stated how we deserved to be attacked by ragheaded hatesmiths on 9/11 because we are aggressive oppressors.
    Come on…this article doesn’t just make you shudder?? This jakyl probably makes 70g’s a year writing this sort of pablum. This country is great because great people took ahold of great possibility and great opportunity and sacrficie greatly to achieve greatness. And this country still affords more opportunity than any other country in the world. Maybe more than all of them put together. Regardless of your ethnicity. In fact…where else could the Jesse Jacksons and Al sharptons of the world MAKE A LIVING doing nothing whatsoever except finding things to whine about and then whining until someone PAYS THEM TO STOP???!! God bless America!

  20. Wow. I have, for the first time in my short life, been called a Liberal. I am actually quite conservative on most issues. I believe in small government (for the most part), gun rights, and am pro-life as the day is long. I also believe that we need to defend our Homeland. My Homeland. AMERICA.

    Yet, the hard, honest truth is that America does have a debt to pay, at least to our own citizens who reap the unintended consequences of slavery and attempted genocide. Time does not heal all wounds. Jesus can, and our repentance helps a LOT. We built capitalism on free, forced labor. That is the highest level of human rights abuse – dehumanizing whole societies and groups of “dark” people to make a buck. In the case of this Nation, we made much more than a buck. We made hundreds of trillions.

    I do love my Country. That is exactly why I want to see Her do the right thing, and prove that She is GREAT. Denial and lack of repentance is not GREATNESS. It is unfortunate.

    Craig, think about it bro.

  21. Okay…just as soon as you find ONE of those slaves you speak of and ONE of those responsible for enslaving them, feel free to open the treasury and let er rip. Paying hush money to fourth and fifth generations is a joke. It’s just more of the same…handout, entitlement, enslavement all over again because you are actually telling them you believe they are helpless and couldn’t possibly make it without your magnanimous assistance. Remove the topic from the table, remove all entitlement programs and let people act like people! If some fifth generation son or daughter of a slave deserves money for some attrocities foisted upon his great great great great grandfather, than I want MY share for the way my immigrant GRANDFATHER (that’s two generations ago) was mistreated when he arrived here from Italy. They wouldn’t sell him land, they wouldn’t hire Italians. He never asked for anything at all! Or my maternal grandfather who was born on the boat on the way over here from the Ukraine! Relegated to a milling community along with all the other “Ukies” and “Russkies”. Can I have some money for all his suffering and the shame it brought his poor kids and grandkids?? Hell NO!! We were all too busy making a living to whine and bitch about what the government owes me for what some people did to a relative so far removed from me that I couldn’t tell you his name.
    Who pays restitution to the families of the soldiers who died freeing slaves from the tyrannical south?
    As for the Indians…I agree with you a lot more there. They have been both mistreated AND swept under the rug. They deserve something because their plight continues.
    America owes NOTHING to ANYONE. This is the land of opportunity here and now. Those who don’t seize the day, do so because they just don’t want to, or they have discovered that they can get more for free by doing nothing and complaining loudly enough. How much is enough? How many more TRILLIONS for education? How many more scholarships? How much further do we lower the bar to include everyone? When was the last time anyone laid a whip to ANYONES back in this country under the auspices of the federal government? Is 150 years long enough to hold a grudge? Apparently not as long as money is still pouring out of that pump.
    How about if we stop sending ANY aid to ANY country where there are black faces and just give THAT money to our poor, sons of sons of sons of sons of slaves. Let the rest of the world starve, let’s take care of our own even MORE than we already do.

  22. Paul taught us “He who does not provide for his family is worse than an infidel”. Who needs to do the repenting???

  23. America owes NOTHING to ANYONE.

    Hmm. What about the $587 billion we own Japan (as of Jan ’08) or the $492 billion we own China (as of April ’08)?

    I love this country a lot. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, nor does that mean it couldn’t be better.

  24. Ummm…you might want to read the article and the rest of the posts so that you could post an entry that had at least a LITTLE to do with the topic at hand.

  25. I guess tongue-in-cheek comments don’t always work.

    And for your information, I read it all. Twice. I will admit though, I only skimmed your comments the second time.

  26. Actually your point is funny now that I see your perspective. But after all the tree hugging, aortic hemorhaging around here I lose my sense of humor.

  27. Craig –

    Let me say again, I was put off by the sentiment of the original post, too. I have had some back and forth regarding other topics here as well. I sometimes have gotten a little upset myself in my posts. Nevertheless, I have attempted to persuade logically and reasonably, and have not descended to name-calling and sweeping generalizations and assumptions about the posters I have had back-and-forth with. They never agree or see my side, and I am pretty sure they still assume I spit on poor people, live in a gated community, and fuel my huge SUV with baby seal juice even though I try to be nice and reasonable when I disagree. Nevertheless, I try to be heard and understood, and try to be respectful.

    I don’t want to jump to conclusions about you, but I think you written quite enough here so that I can avoid drawing unwarrented conclusions about your temperment and approach to conflict and disagreement, so here goes:

    You are yelling. Lots. You apparently think along with the yelling that name calling is an effective way to make an argument, to which you apply your little spin that you think is cutting or funny. For example, for the old standard “bleeding heart liberal”, you cook up “aortic hemmoraging” or “any blood left in that bleeding heart”. Oh, and you were sure to toss in the “why don’t you just leave” line of argument. That’ll win them over!

    Also, you are obviously regurgitating what you hear on “conservative” talk radio rather than trying to think about what underlies the poster’s position and then thinking of an original response yourself. As for where you get your material, I am guessing you probably think Rush has lost his edge, and that you are more of a Neal Boortz or Michael Savage guy. You sound like the conservative-ish version of a typical dailykos poster. Who needs more of that kind of attitude?

    Now, I am not a “let’s all just get along” guy, but I do think that it is possible to have intelligent, constructive, useful dialogue among people who disagree.

    The question is whether you can say anything intelligent, constructive, or useful. So far, the evidence suggests that you can’t.

  28. Craig –

    You are making my point for me. Being emotional does not require yelling. Even being angry does not require yelling. No one is making you go there, but rather you are choosing to do so. Besides, I thought it was supposed to be the Left that blamed everyone else for bad behavior rather than taking personal responsibility. Now suddenly you can’t be blamed when you fly off the handle just because someone breaks out the tired boilerplate stuff about how bad America really is because you are not properly medicated?

    So, are you here to try to persuade, or just to yell at people?

  29. Ariah –

    While you are thinking, I have been thinking as well. One of my mian complaints here (and really part of the core of a lot of my objections to the sentiments I read here) is that you are so completely down on (in this case) America. Let me explain.

    I get it, and I agree with part of it to a certain degree, that you are dissatisfied with parts of the American “Experiment”. So, where the congressmen calls America a “great” experiment, ignoring the shortcomings, you call it a “failing” experiment, ignoring the upside. Yes, America is not and has not been all perfect, but does that mean that it is failing? Can it not be both great and imperfect?

    So, I guess it is what I perceive as hyperbole, or the overemphasis of the bad and the refusal to recognize the good, and just the general pessimism that is getting me. Is that a reasonable and useful stance? Is that a biblical stance?

    I really think that in this case, and with regard to some other things you muse about here, you very firmly set up the perfect as the enemy of the good. Brother, as much as we may long for it, and should long for it, perfect is not coming in this age, but only in the age to come.

    With that in mind, consider my challenge I wrote above – isn’t it true, in spite of America’s shortcomings and the negatives and wrongs in its history, that people of every color and creed are far and away better clothed, educated, fed, sheltered, and protected than in any of the places I mentioned? Yes, there are exceptions among us, but isn’t it the case in those other places that to be clothed, educated, fed, sheltered, and protected at all is largely the exception?

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