July 4th By Msmaku Asrat
Today The US celebrates Independence Day marking the day when that famous document, the Declaration of Independence, was signed on July 4th 1776 thus bringing into existence one of the most remarkable nations in the world. The American Constitution, the oldest constitution in the world, was signed on September 17, 1787. Amendments have been made to the Constitution and the first ten are known as the Bill of Rights. The constitution guarantees life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It also envisages a government of the people, for the people and by the people. For the first time a simple “Mr” with no royal titles could be a president. The French Revolution which brought about the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizens with the famous motto of “Liberte, Egalite and Fraternity” was to come later in 1789.
One of the most remarkable achievement of the new U.S. government was launching of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806) which was sent by Thomas Jefferson when he was US President. The expedition was headed by his personal aide Captain Meriwether Lewis who in turn chose Second Lieutenant Clark as his deputy. The purpose was to chart the territory in the West ending in the Pacific coast. This party of only 33 people has left one of the most magnificent scientific, and cultural writings on record. This remarkable saga produced in many volumes, the leaders of the expedition record in minute detail the flora and fauna of the areas they passé through in a period of two years. They also produced 140 maps, collected hundreds of botanic specimens and signed scores of treaties with those inhabitants of the land, those perfect specimen of humanity, called Red Indians then but are now known as Native Americans.
To see this virgin land in the eyes of Lewis and Clark is to be present at the dawn of humanity when God just created the Earth, or to be present with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before they fell from Grace. The beauty of the mountains and valleys, the remarkable rivers and waterfalls, the vast expanses of land called the prairies where millions of buffalos cris-cross galloping to their watering holes in tens of thousands at a time creating their own mini dust storms is a memorable saga left for humanity as a historical record. Truly it was correct for the early Americans to call this land “God’s Own Country”
It was this pristine land which the Americans inherited that they almost totally destroyed in a space of a few centuries. First they killed the millions of buffalos by poisoning the rivers and streams they went to drink, in order to deny the “Red Indians” their means of livelihood; then they totally annihilated the “Red Indians” in a most horrible fashion in order to inherit their land; and then they abuse the land in wanton disregard to preservation in order to produce an industrial giant which the U.S. has became. So the very first holocaust against man, animal, and nature was performed in this remarkable land of so many possibilities.
I have to add that one of members of the expedition was a person called York, a slave and servant of Lewis who ended up being one of most valuable members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He returned back with him to Washington DC but ( Alas! ) died a slave never gaining his freedom. This should not be not a surprise since the giant of the American Revolution , Thomas Jefferson who could fashion those remarkable and memorable words and phrases, had many slaves himself. He has also several children from his slave mistress and she and her children from Thomas Jefferson remained slaves until the day they died.
When America declared its independence it decided not to follow other countries laws. The Declaration said “all men are created equal” But there have emerged a belief among a significant number that “men are born UNEQUAL and it is the task of the government to remedy this inequality” Also laws have developed where a Federal judge has more power than the population of an entire State. Is Democracy a work in progress or what?
So when we celebrate this day we must recall the past and also imagine the possibilities of what might have been or going to happen.