Call me a cynic. Call me unpatriotic. Call me a party pooper. But I really don’t like the fourth of July. Don’t get me wrong – I am grateful for our veterans and think they are heroes. I bawl whenever the news tells a story of a soldier surprising their family when they came home. And I am grateful for those who gave the ultimate gift.
People say that we’re all free. But we’re not. Women are paid less than men. A black man can be shot for just walking down the street. An autistic child can be murdered by their parent and the parent walks away. This isn’t opinion, this is fact. In our very pledge we say “with liberty and justice for all”, but where was the justice for Tamir Rice? Where was the justice for the autistic children who were murdered by their caregivers in the name of mercy?
We live in a country where racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and ableism are rampant. We live in a country where disabled adults work in sheltered workshops to profit off their disability. Disabled people have to fight for the right to marry. Muslim hate crimes are alive and well. When we say “But the flag still stands for freedom, and they can’t take that away” like the song says? Or do only some have freedom? The ones we deem good enough? The ones that fit a cookie cutter mold?
“And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free
And I won’t forget the mean who died, who gave that right to be
And I’ll gladly stand up, next to you, and defend her still today
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt, I love this land… God Bless the USA.”
I don’t particularly love my country. Not when we have the current presidential candidates. Not when my voice was literally silenced, because the caucus is not handicap accessible. Not when people are trying to strip away my rights and freedoms because I’m disabled. Not when my friends are given death threats (yes, it happens) for being advocates and activists. Am I free? In some sense, yes. In other senses, we have a long way to go.
I’m autistic. I’m physically disabled. My brain is alphabet soup. And I am not free. Do I have more rights than I would in other countries? Well yes, it would be absurd to claim otherwise. But I am oppressed. Every single day. My friends are oppressed. We are not free. We still have to have a disability day of mourning, for god’s sake, alongside a transgender day of remembrance. Not even a month ago, there was a terrorist attack on American soil inside a gay night club.
We sing and speak about freedom and we make noises about liberty and justice. When the truth is, these things are just for a select few and many more are denied these same things every day.