A reflection by Bishop Tony Green from Saint John of God Parish


If you would like to have a reflection considered for publication, please send your writing to Bp. Tony Green at


                                                         Independence Day – Celebrate or Observe?

                                                               A reflection by Bishop Tony Green


I listen to NPR every morning on my drive to work at Ellis.  This morning, Thursday, July 2nd, I heard reporter Juana Summers report on how every year on the 4th of July we reflect on the promises of the United States of America.  Summers goes on to say, “This year we will reflect on how those promises are not equally fulfilled.”  I listened to several Black Americans describe their struggle to reconcile systemic racism with pride in our country.

One interviewee, Trevor Smith, said, “You grow up hearing and saying  …one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, and then you realize, oh, wait…it has never really meant liberty and justice for all.”  Another interviewee, Timothy Berry, class president of his graduating class at West Point Military Academy, said he finds a lot of contradiction in what the United States says it is and what it actually is.  Berry said he feels his role is to do his part to hold the country accountable.

In years past, I have simply thought of Independence Day in too shallow a way.  I have known since grade school that it represents the Declaration of Independence from British governance.  I have celebrated a lifetime of July 4th’s on the lake, family barbeques, fireworks shows, and cans of Budweiser.

This year I will re-think, hopefully in a deeper way, what has happened, and has not happened that should have happened in this country since July 4th of 1776.  This year, I will observe Independence Day rather than celebrate it.  It is difficult, if not impossible to celebrate the great ideal of liberty and justice when it has yet to become a reality for all – especially for communities of color.

It is a good thing to know history, or we are doomed to repeat it.  I’ll leave you with a paragraph from a speech that Frederick Douglass delivered on July 5, 1852, entitled, What to the Slave is the 4th of July?

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.”


If you would like to have a reflection considered for publication, please send your writing to Bp. Tony Green at

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