Independence means liberation from oppression

Lincoln's View of Washington

Reflecting on what Independence Day means to me, I can’t help but filter it through my experience of being a gay citizen of this country.  To be a minority in this country is a very different experience, and white gay men, uniquely, have the experience of seeing what it’s like to exist on both sides of the line, depending on which side of the closet door they are at the time.  The lessons i have learned as a minority citizen informed me greatly that what i had taken for granted, my majority privilege, is something that has the potential to blind one to the experience of others less “fortunate” to enjoy the same privileges.

As a gay American, incremental legalization of full equality under law makes me hopeful with a tinge of resentment.  While even a slim majority of Americans now supports full equality for gay Americans, to be told I have to wait, even for a year or an election cycle, sets my teeth on edge and gets my blood up.  I have very mixed feelings about co-opting the black civil rights struggle for the gay community, beyond the basic understanding that rights are equal for everybody, but the poetry of seething impatience behind Langston Hughes’s “a dream deferred is a dream denied” rings true even until today.  People misunderstand Michelle Obama’s statement about pride in one’s country.  You can’t feel pride when little old men, together for over 40 years, are denied the decency of recognition as a proper family.  You can’t feel pride when the law of the land supports a hospital denying a woman and her shared children access to see her dying same-sex spouse, despite having legal power-of-attorney from another state.  You can’t feel pride when bi-national families are ripped apart, when if one partner were differently-gendered they would be allowed to stay.

If you’ve never had the law coming down against you for just being who you are, you most likely would not understand the anger so many of your countrymen and women feel towards our shared country.  But there are moments, of course, like when women, men of color, and gay people legitimately run for congress, senate, and even win the presidency, where yes, you do feel this pride in the forward momentum of your country.  You aren’t just proud because somebody started playing the Star Spangled Banner, or an honor guard presents the pre-game colors.  You’re proud because you can see, just reflected in that one person, a small, but undeniable, step forward.  Life will not be as it has been.  We will not go back, only forward, and no one like him, or her, will be a novel “first” anything ever again.  It will just be normal.

Am i proud of my country?  for many things, yes.  However, being a patriotic citizen does not require one to unquestioningly love everything one’s government or country does in one’s name. Do i love my country? without question.  It is this love of country that keeps me here, doing my best every day to change it, in some small but unyielding way, for the better. As we celebrate our liberation from the oppression of taxation without representation, let us also celebrate the liberation of our lives from the tyranny of religious rule, rights restricted because of pigmentation, and one day soon, inequality based on gender non-conformity.  Let freedom ring.

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About Josh Hartsell

34, 3L law student, Boren Fellow in Korea, internationalist, former ex-pat.

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