The Declaration of Independence for White Males

This 4th of July holiday will see a confluence of interests and cultures in the land called the United States. Confluence generally implies a positive result when different events, interests or cultures come together. But confluence can instead lead to conflicts, which is the case this year.


Definition: a coming or flowing together, meeting, or gathering at one point

The joining of rivers—as at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, where the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers flow together spectacularly—was the original meaning of confluence, and in its later meanings we still hear a strong echo of the physical merging of waters. So today we can speak of a confluence of events, a confluence of interests, a confluence of cultures, and so on, from which something important often emerges.

The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen States of America in Congress, July 4, 1776, might more accurately be called The Declaration of White males.

Many forget the Declaration includes the phrase “the merciless Indian Savages”.

These are days of heightened awareness about structural racism. That includes demands for the removal of statues and art depicting Confederate soldiers and White supremacists. Join us on July 4th from 1-3 pm to rally at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines to demand that monuments to white supremacy be removed in Iowa.

Iowa State Capitol building, Jeff Kisling

There seem to be so many ironies this year. Mount Rushmore is land stolen from Native Americans. And then to have carved massive images of four presidents, each considered a racist by some of us, into a national memorial, is yet another example of White supremacy, and disregard for Indigenous peoples.

So a racist president still plans to go to Mount Rushmore today. Native Americans have other objections. Fireworks will be displayed.

National Park Service officials have not allowed pyrotechnics at Mount Rushmore for more than a decade, out of concern that they could set off wildfires and contaminate drinking water supplies. The memorial is surrounded by 1,200 acres of forested lands and lies next to the Black Hills National Forest’s Black Elk Wilderness. Just last week, a wildfire erupted six miles south of the memorial, destroying about 60 acres before it was extinguished with help from 117 firefighters and eight aircraft.

Rocket’s red glare and protests: Trump’s Mount Rushmore fireworks anger tribes. Sioux leaders object to fireworks displays on sacred land by Juliet Eilperin, Darry Fears and Two Armus, Washington Post, July 2, 2020

It is also infuriating that a president who has endangered us all by his administration’s epic failure to respond to COVID-19, will bring together thousands of people where masks are optional and there will be no effort for social distancing. Native peoples are at high risk to contract the virus and have been taking many measures to try to protect themselves including checkpoints at entrances to the tribal lands. The president’s insistence on the 4th of July celebration today has all the makings of a coronavirus super spreader event.

But the best orators who have marked the day have understood that our nation’s laurels are not meant to be rested on. Fourth of July speeches tend to divide into two sorts. The predominant variety is commemorative, celebratory, and prescriptive—solemnized, as John Adams predicted in 1776, “with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.”

But in his exuberance, Adams failed to anticipate that the Fourth, as it brought Americans together, would continually threaten to tear them apart. Over the years, celebrations of the Fourth have become a periodic tug of war between commemorations designed to affirm and even enforce the common identity of Americans—out of many, one—and subversive pushback from those obstreperous enough to insist that we are not all free, emphatically not all equal, and certainly not one.

But even in self-congratulatory Philadelphia, (July 4, 1876) not every iconoclast was quelled. Suffrage advocate Susan B. Anthony and several younger colleagues had managed to get into the square. After the Declaration of Independence was read to the multitudes, as the band struck up an anthem, Anthony and her followers rose and approached the speaker’s platform, carrying copies of a Declaration of Rights, including provocative “Articles of Impeachment” they had drawn up against “our rulers”—men—for denying women the right to vote or serve on juries and restricting them from full participation in the American democracy in many other ways. “The history of our country the past hundred years,” it proclaimed, “has been a series of assumptions and usurpations of power over women.”

The Best Fourth of July Speech in American History. It was delivered on the fifth of July. By JAMES WEST DAVIDSON,, JULY 02, 2015. Referring to Frederick Douglas’s ‘What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?’
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2 Responses to The Declaration of Independence for White Males

  1. peterovisoke says:

    Listening to the voices of National Public Radio reading the Declaration of Independence this morning I felt anger and even revulsion. Very unsettling to me. Eventually I was able to let these volatile and hot emotions be transformed towards love by worship with those who gather each day from everywhere on Mother Earth. They are gathered together by Pendle Hill, the Quaker conference and retreat center in Wallingford, Pennsylvania. My own challenge is to practice this transformation on a daily, even on an hourly basis. This is very hard for me and, I imagine, for many of us. How can we manage our anger so that it is transformed into love and becomes a calling IN rather than a calling OUT? Where and how is it rightly ordered and spiritually grounded for our anger to be expressed? These are two queries that I am reflecting upon as we go over the edge into this problematic weekend at a time of enormous loss, pain, fear and tumultuous change.

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