Before he left, our former editor Anthony Pignataro gave me this advice: Follow more people on Twitter. He said he’d been intentionally doing this for the last year or two, following accounts from active Native Hawaiians, people of color, women, and other marginalized voices, and that the diversity of their perspectives influenced his views on a number of issues.
I’ve followed his advice, pursuing fringe viewpoints to a sometimes unnerving degree (Alex Jones’ tweets can be genuinely frightening). As F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” Diversity of perspectives is a good thing. It breaks us out of echo chambers and challenges our beliefs so we emerge with an evolved opinion or, at least, better understandings of our own views and their counterpoints.
This Fourth of July, tweets made me contemplate the celebratory mood of the holiday and questions I’d been grappling with for some time. As someone born and raised on occupied land, with the blood of the oppressed in my veins, what does it mean to be an American, and am I proud to be one? It’s been a complicated question to answer lately, and this Fourth I didn’t quite feel like clothing myself in stars and stripes, waving sparklers in hand, and chanting “USA! USA!…”
For one, our president, the elected face of the United States of America, is a caricature of the worst of us: an insecure, senile, misogynist racist with no capacity for critical or coherent thought, gilded in spray tan, who’s wealthy for erecting self-branded towers that compensate for a gaping lack of a principled, meaningful existence. He’s late-stage capitalism incarnate, a cheaply manufactured piece of hollow, gold-plated trash whose only purpose is in auctioning every last remaining truth for an inch of political advantage or wealth.
Families seeking refuge in this country, which has claimed to be a beacon of hope for the world, are locked up along with their young children. Mass shootings in public schools have become an unavoidable reality. Federally appointed officials dismantle public trust with ineptitude and corruption. While being the richest country in the world, the U.S. has the highest level of child poverty of all developed countries, social workers and teachers who are underpaid, and cities that are without clean water. The national budget prioritizes weapons that contribute to the killing of innocent people across the globe. Our love of wealth and growth has made us the biggest carbon polluter in the history of the world.
The list goes on. Then there’s the problematic history of institutionalized slavery, colonization, and theft perpetrated by the United States… These truths are hard to reconcile with the opening message of the Declaration of Independence, “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.”
What do we believe as a nation in these fractured times?
Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) tweeted “A reminder this Fourth of July: it was eight immigrants who signed the Declaration of Independence. Happy Independence Day.” Juliana Pache of The Fader shot back a correction, “colonizers********” then added, “imagine calling the founding fathers (violent, racist, greedy, tyrannical men) ‘immigrants.’ where did they immigrate???? they literally took over and purposely committed genocide. the audacity.”
Local Twitter questioned the meaning of Independence Day in a place where the U.S. squashed the independence of a sovereign kingdom. One tweeted, “July 4th 1894: Sanford B. Dole as well as other haole businessmen carried out their own constitution as the ‘Hawaiian League’ and took the Kingdom of Hawai‘i as their own & later became a part of the US through illegal annexation. #IndependenceDay? I think not.”
Another wrote, “I refuse to celebrate the ‘independence’ of those who stripped indigenous peoples across the globe of their sovereignty and pure cultural identity.”
On Jul. 7, State Rep. Kaniela Ing (D-South Maui) and candidate for Congressional District 1 struck a more conciliatory tone, tweeting “The Declaration of Independence outlines three inalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But we seem to have forgotten the ‘life’ part. Our founders believed that we have a right to live—to stay alive. Housing, healthcare, livable jobs are our rights.”
But to some, this grants the founders too much. UH Maui College professor and Native Hawaiian activist Kaleikoa Ka‘eo responded to Ing, saying “Truth be told, this is political mythology. Those words were drafted for wealthy white men by wealthy white men. Never intended to apply to the poor, indigenous natives, or blacks especially the enslaved if they were truly in alienable they would not have to be struggled for”
That’s a lot to chew on for a day I’ve been told is about freedom, hot dogs, and fireworks.
Still, reflecting on hard truths and contradictions isn’t a bad thing. We should reflect on American values and this country’s troubled history. That’s the only way to negotiate an inclusive narrative that recognizes marginalized people and a history of oppression, while still valuing the founding principles with an understanding that America has fallen short of these ideals in the past. These concepts will evolve as social change occurs towards a better country for all, but only if we stop to think, talk, and organize. The ability to do just that on a day off, while making s’mores with the family is the freedom I’m most grateful for.
Photo of @BerniceKing Twitter
Discussion 7/12/2018: Proud to be American? This week we reflected on what Independence Day means in these times, in this place.
See our article: https://mauitime.com/culture/history/happy-independence-day/
Are you proud to be an American?
Jul 24 2018 9:21 AM AMERICA IS STUPID!!! They stole me people’s land!!! A bunch of white supremacists!
Jul 22 2018 6:34 PM Greatest country on earth, ever
Jul 22 2018 10:35 AM because our president is a buffoon and middle America is just a bunch of consumers who only care about themselves. its shameful.
Jul 22 2018 5:56 AM I did not earn being an American, a missused word as it is because America is a continent not a country. It is something I was born into, like race, sex, or color of my eyes i had no say in the matter it was given to me. I did not work for it, study for it, stive for it, it just is. Why should I take jingoist pride in something I did not earn? That said all while avoiding the fact that the state of the nation is in putrid turmoil, something we are all responsible for.
Jul 21 2018 7:15 PM Born & Raised!
Jul 21 2018 5:15 PM I have always had pride in the United States, believing in our strength stemming from our melting pot of cultures, strong individualism, and as a “beacon of democracy.” The last 2 years have shook my beliefs to their foundation. Greed and hatred dominate our news. Prejudice and racism is stepping into the light of day. Families are divided, at the borders and across the dinner table. This is why I am ashamed of what we have let happen.
Jul 21 2018 3:44 PM With Trump as president, I’m embarrassed to be an American. If abroad, I would say I am Canadian, like I did in the ’70s.
Jul 21 2018 12:06 PM I am proud to live in a country with American ideals. However, I am NOT proud of the current politics at the national level, especially the machinations of the Republican controlled congress and a president that does NOT support or value people with opinions other than his own.
Jul 20 2018 7:40 PM “America Has the Best Of Everything Human Being Could Ever Want In Their Lifetime If You’re willing To Work Hard For It!”
Jul 20 2018 4:48 PM yes, because even though I don’t agree with many of the beliefs of our President, we are still free and fortunate to live in an amazing country.
Jul 20 2018 2:14 PM I am proud that we finally have leadership trying to keep us safe from illegal aliens and making other countries play fair in trade, NATO and other world forums.
Jul 20 2018 10:39 AM Yes
Jul 20 2018 8:01 AM America is the best country on earth.
Jul 20 2018 7:55 AM I was once. Today I look at what America has become as reflected by our leadership and those who support them, and I cringe in shame. We are separating families and locking children in cages and tent cities. We are denying asylum to victims of rape and domestic abuse. We are rolling back environmental protections at a time when the planet itself is at risk. And we have a madman at the helm of our democracy. Proud? Not so much.
Jul 20 2018 6:17 AM Trump is an embarrassment.
Jul 20 2018 6:13 AM The freedoms and liberties we have as citizens far surpass many country around the world !!! We are privileged and should be proud to be Americans !!! Fight for Hawaiian cultural preservation but if not for America we may have been part of a communist country!!!
Jul 20 2018 5:35 AM I will always be proud to be an American, no matter what the status of our country is!!
Jul 19 2018 8:54 PM I’m ashamed to have been born in a country that treats humans so badly, creates so much war, and illegally occupies so many places, including Hawai’i.
Jul 19 2018 6:12 PM America land of Stolen, Genocide, & Greed.
Jul 19 2018 5:17 PM Americans kinda suck
Jul 19 2018 3:39 PM Safe, free to worship God with no persecution.
Jul 19 2018 2:51 PM Land of th free…
Jul 19 2018 1:08 PM Trump is an embarrassment at best.
Jul 19 2018 12:55 PM Donald Trump
Jul 19 2018 12:09 PM I am proud to live in a country that has the Constitution written over 200 yrs ago and now is the template for Democracy around the World. Unfortunately our current leaders do not abide by it, but the message is still our Guide!
Jul 19 2018 11:08 AM “We are the luckiest people on the planet to be in America!
(I am a LEGAL alien, did it the right way and dislike all this stuff about illegals crossing over without being deported. I want this country where I live SAFE!)”
Jul 19 2018 9:23 AM Not with the buffoon now serving as our president, can I be proud to be an American. I’m embarrassed.
Jul 19 2018 7:01 AM Trump
Jul 19 2018 6:50 AM Greatest country in the world, regardless of clown in office.
Jul 19 2018 6:13 AM Because of our freedom.
Jul 19 2018 5:32 AM Very proud, but we are living a sad period for our Republic
Jul 19 2018 4:25 AM America is the greatest country in the world, the opportunities I’ve had by living here are found no where else in the world. I’m proud to have served during war time, to fight for ones country is a great honor. I may not believe in what you say but I will fight to preserve your right to say it. Freedom is not Free, thousands of American military men have fought and died for your rights to live free. Enjoy that freedom, cherish it and preserve it for the next generation. This is not a popular thing to say today however “God bless America” ! Craig
Jul 19 2018 1:22 AM Donald Trump has ruined America
Jul 18 2018 11:20 PM Not in trumps america
Jul 18 2018 6:17 PM Despite it’s issues still the best place to live
Jul 18 2018 10:10 AM In this political climate, our leadership is failing and we’re taking steps backwards while other countries are leading in health care, vacation leave, employment opportunities, climate change, the use of renewable energy sources, manufacturing, gun control, etc. America used to stand for freedom for all. We’re moving in a negative direction with regards to racism, immigration, and acceptance of refugees. People used to want to come to America for the “dream”. Who would want do that in today’s environment?
Jul 18 2018 6:53 AM More crap from libtard Axel
Jul 17 2018 5:54 PM As a nation that holds itself as a shinning pinnacle of freedom and democracy, while at the same time denying the privelege to others throughout its history (including the one we call home and love). I cannot in all levels of self respect call myself to be a proud inhabitent of the nation known as the United States.
Jul 17 2018 8:15 AM It is embarassing to be American, especially abroad. We are loosing respect daily, from our allies & the international community as a whole. The thing that makes me feel patriotic does not have anything to do with nationalism. It is the amazing nature of this magestic country that makes me beam. But it is does not make me proud. In the words of Andre3000, “We are mother-fuckers. Because Earth is our mother, and we keep fucking her.”
Jul 16 2018 10:32 PM Been everywhere. Seen it all. The USA is the greatest country on Earth.
Jul 16 2018 5:35 PM Yes
Jul 16 2018 5:32 PM “We enjoy Freedoms thousands don’t have in many countries.
Our freedom cost too many lives of our citizens. The US Constitution is under attack by liberals.
Why are so many trying to enter our country, illegally as well as legally?
The naysayers and complainers should go live six months in a socialist country like Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, or Canada.
They will stop whimpering really fast! Sue Lussier”
Jul 16 2018 4:36 PM Our politicians have failed the middle and downward classes miserably!
Jul 16 2018 3:12 PM aloha…. this is an UNFAIR question!!… 2 choices… it is one world… america has done amazingly wonderful things; we have also created genocide and used slaves to build up our country. i would rather be an american than most countries; however, i would rather be a human…. we are no better nor worse than most countries; we just think we are, by blindly feeling as if we follow are declaration and constitution… .we follow wealth and power!
Jul 16 2018 9:19 AM really, every time i come to your site?
Jul 16 2018 5:23 AM Stupid lib article…
Jul 14 2018 6:27 PM “We enjoys freedoms of religion, speech, Press, assembly and right to protect ourselves.
Thousands gave their lives to protect our way of life as Americans. Susan Lussier”
Jul 14 2018 1:59 PM It is hard to be proud when your fellow American is racist, fascist, bigoted, fill-in-the-blank…Happy to be in Hawaii where there are less mean people. Certainly we have our fair share, but not like some places in the USA.
Jul 14 2018 9:03 AM Mixed feelings… When you contemplate the annexation of Hawai’i—a sovereign independent kingdom–backed by US Marines and orchestrated by missionary descendants and business-minded individuals, it is difficult to feel “Proud.” Yes, allegedly we have certain Freedoms. But are we really “Free.” Women and children must always be hypervigilant against assault and rape. The legacy of slavery and the fact that the US was built on the back of Africans and African-Americans is equally problematic, not to mention the Trail of Tears, Japanese Internment Camps of WW II, the ships full of Jews escaping genocide in Nazi Germany only to be refused entry and sent back to the gas chambers… The fact that once school commences, we will be back to weekly school shootings, and the fact that education is no longer valued or appreciated by the decision makers. This destructive subsection of Baby Boomers and their spawn are disgusting. I could go on and on and on..
Jul 13 2018 8:26 PM Well, to be blunt, I think that the fact that the nuclear football is being held by the current sitting president means that the human race doesn’t deserve to survive much past this point. Sad that we will probably take out a lot of incredible life forms with us.. but new, fitter ones will emerge in time.. *sigh* #imightbeascienceteacher
Jul 13 2018 4:31 PM It’s difficult. I think you can love your Country and still be critical of its problems. The Founding Fathers realized that the Union was imperfect as the first line of the Constitution implies, we as citizen’s should strive to make it better. This Country was founded on the systematic displacement & extermination of Native peoples and the forced slave labor.The inter-generational trauma stemming from manifest destiny, rugged individualism, colonization, and toxic patriarchal norms continues to do so much damage. Community leaders can help to set the tone to de-escalate the cultural animosity through the acknowledgment of past wrongs and solutions for reconciliation. We have a very traumatized population of people and limited resources that continue to be exploited. But in a democratic republic, we the electorate have to remain vigilant. As a millennial and kama`aina, I try to remain optimistic but continue to be let down by my naivete.and inexperience. When it comes down to it, we have no choice BUT to holomua, right?
Jul 13 2018 2:08 PM I’m not proud to be a citizen of an imperialist, colonialist, capitalist, expansionist country that is willing to illegally invade and occupy a recognized, established monarchy.
Jul 12 2018 9:23 PM To date greatest country on earth.
Jul 12 2018 9:09 PM I am embarrassed with Trump as our president. He does not represent me. I hope our country can recover.
Jul 12 2018 8:29 PM Maui no ha oi
Jul 12 2018 4:48 PM “We are currently not even close to being the greatest nation. The rich are favored, the poor are kept poor, our government is entirely oit of controol and quickly making the rich richer and the poor poorer; oh and then there is the out in the open racisim which doeant seam to be a problem, so am i proud to be an american.
Fuck no. “
Jul 12 2018 3:53 PM I feel incredibly lucky to be an American., but am devastated and deeply embarrassed by the incredibly heartless treatment of our lands and peoples by the current national administration.
Jul 12 2018 2:39 PM Greatest country in the world!!
Jul 12 2018 2:33 PM Just returned from a trip to the UK. Honestly, I cringed a bit when people asked where we were from and I had to say the U.S. I’m not sure how anyone can’t be embarrassed about what’s happening in this country right now.
Take The Poll: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/proudamerican