The Times We Live In
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The radical idea that set the stage for a struggle that has lasted almost 250 years

July 4th means different things to so many people. That’s as it should be. Fireworks, cookouts, and parades are traditional ways of honoring the 4th, even if some of those celebrations include a bit of the nontraditional. Take the Scottish Reels Precision Push Mower Drill Team executing intricate drill patterns with their non-motorized mowers in Takoma Park’s quirky Independence Day celebration, for example. Decidedly nontraditional.

Scottish Reels Precision Push Mower Drill Team with their piper

No matter how one celebrates, the importance of the day in American history all began on July 4, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, declaring: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Yes, the Founders who signed the Declaration understood “men” to mean “white men.” Black and indigenous men and women of all races were not included at the time. Nonetheless, in an era of monarchies it was pretty radical to suggest that everyone from the king down to the lowliest farmer was created equal. That self-evident truth set the stage for a struggle that has now endured for almost 250 years. A struggle, as Abraham Lincoln so memorably phrased it at Gettysburg 87 years later, to see “whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

America survived the attempt by Southern oligarchs during the Civil War to restructure the nation so that some people would be seen as better than others. Rights were expanded over time to include Black men, other men of color, and women. Two steps forward were often followed by one (or more) steps back.

This July 4th we are still fighting battles with people who believe they are superior to their fellow citizens and should be allowed to live with a different set of laws. Or above the law. To me, July 4th is about battling oppression and tyranny, and honoring the truth that all people are created equal.

A democracy is messy. It can take time to get things right. Yet eventually we usually make progress towards that goal. In this day and age, we are slowly working to find the truth about the attempts to overturn the results of a fair election and overthrow a fairly elected government in 2020 and 2021. One of the individuals at the heart of that work is my Congressman, Jamie Raskin.

Congressman Jamie Raskin

As he does every year, Congressman Raskin was marching in today’s Takoma Park July 4th parade. He was there in spite of threats made to members of the House Select Committee on January 6th. Why are the members being threatened? Because the January 6 committee has made the work of uncovering truth “the lodestar of its public hearings.” As Quinta Jurecic wrote recently in The Atlantic,

And as a committee established to uncover what happened on January 6, naturally the panel would be focused on the truth of the matter. But the January 6 committee’s hearings have so far been unusually powerful as a paean to the value of facts. The committee seems to take seriously its responsibility to establish an official record of the insurrection, and to communicate that record to the public in as accessible a manner as possible. That clarity is bracing in a political moment fogged with lies.

Those who traffic in lies, deceit, discord, and distrust fear the truth and the value of facts. In response, they make threats of violence. Congressman Raskin and Representative Stephanie Murphy of Florida are set to co-lead a hearing by the Special Committee that explores the path to extremism that spurred insurrectionists to attack the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Jamie Raskin has been a very accessible Congressman at a time when many of his colleagues are seeking to stage performative tantrums and check their trending status on twitter during hearings. He holds public meetings and attends public events. He promotes legislation designed to help Americans. He’ll stop and chat when you reach out to him. Heck, he’ll even wave and give you a friendly smile as he’s pulling out of the Whole Foods Market parking lot with his ballcap on backwards. Congressman Raskin has had a very difficult two years personally, but he is still there. He is still living the lessons learned from his father, Marcus Raskin, beginning with “when a situation seems hopeless, then you are the hope.  When everything looks dark, you must be the light.

I picked up a button today calling for a more humane America, not realizing that about the same time a gunman decided to open fire at a July 4th parade in Highland Park, Illinois, killing at least six people. Even our major holidays are not immune from mass shootings. It’s just another day in America. *

Clearly too large of a portion of our population have come to the belief that lies, violence, and authoritarianism are the answer for America today. In spite of the darkness, people like Jamie Raskin give me hope that we will also have leaders who will continue to battle oppression and tyranny while honoring the truth that all people are created equal.

DJB taking in the 2022 July 4th parade in Takoma Park
Vanadu at 2022 Takoma Park July 4th parade
Winging It
Getting into Good Trouble with the Anti-Trumpism Bandwagon

More to come…


*We are so confused about what makes us free that we have reached the point where a Supreme Court majority opinion striking down a New York state gun law — written by a justice who probably lied to get on the court and whose wife appears to be deeply involved in the insurrection to overthrow the election — is seen as one of the most intellectually dishonest and poorly argued decisions in American judicial history. When you quote Chief Justice Roger B. Taney’s infamous opinion in Dred Scott approvingly, as Clarence Thomas did, it is time to step down from the bench.

Image: Congressman Jamie Raskin marches with the Democracy Summer Fellows at the Takoma Park July 4th parade (photo by DJB).

This entry was posted in: The Times We Live In


I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.

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