Remarkable, with all we’ve endured since 2016, I approach my 64th birthday this month a far less cynical person than I was in ‘75 when I graduated from high school. Why? I’ve been moved by the intelligence, commitment, and character of my countrymen in this fight: Sally Yates, the House Impeachment Managers all, Anthony Fauci, Alexander Vindman, Fiona Hill, Stacey Abrams, Pres. Biden, Marc E. Elias, and you Dr. Richardson. Thank you and happy Independence Day.

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“For there is always light, if we are only brave enough to see it. If only we are brave enough to be it.”

The Hill We Climb

by Amanda Gorman.

From the Inaugural poem for the inauguration of President Joe Biden. “A skinny black girl descended from slaves…”

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The moment of Amanda (at the inaugural) seemed to me to personify perfectly what artistry can capture to make the words "created equal" live. She inspired me to write this:

"Of a Poet"

I thought of a poet,

{on a day of poetry}

oddly, on display;

as if emerging,

from shackles shared...


in our hearts

a hidden truth

{ echoes of: Guthrie:Simone:Lincoln:Seamus}



a rising Oshun

a risen sun

a red band cradles the mind on a woman who shatters our

quiet convention

with elegance...

her dancing hands

a lilting melody

a voice surely

not of this world,

but, of THIS moment,




made me think,

of the power

of a poet.

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Great post, Heather. Thanks.

From my own 4th of July post over at That's Another Fine Mess:

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, when they sat down and argued what to say in the Declaration of Independence, may have had a much different understanding their words and goal when they said “all men are created equal,” but the moment it was said, the moment it was written, it was never going to be limited to white males of property. Every person who ever read it or heard it said “Yeah, that’s for me” And that’s why for the past 245 years people have come here, and why people have striven to make that true. This is the only country founded on a revolutionary ideal, the ideal of equality of all. There are those who say the French and Russian Revolutions were more “authentic” revolutions, but millions of people didn’t risk everything after those events to go to the land of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or the land where the workers of the world had nothing to lose but their chains. They’ve come here, and by their coming every year, they keep the dream alive, because they arrive with it in their hearts.

On June 24, 1826, the 50th year of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, former President and author of the Declaration, 83 year old Thomas Jefferson, was asked by Roger Weightman to come to Washington D.C. to participate in the celebration of the anniversary. He was in declining health (he and John Adams would both die 10 days later on that day of days), and wrote to apologize for not being able to accept the offer. Fifty years later, he had come to see some of the larger meaning of the words he and John Adams and the other members of the committee who had been charged to write the Delaration had put to paper.

He wrote:

“May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”

So far, we have been able - with many delays and detours - to stick to that path. The greatest threat to that revolutionary dream stands tall around us today, which makes this Fourth of July one of the most important since the day the words “all men are created equal” were first heard. It’s our belief in that revolutionary dream that is why we are involved politically and socially as we are. We may not have achieved the ideal, we may never completely do so, but if we fail to stand for it now, it will be lost, possibly forever.

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I was born in 1943 and grew up in what was then rural New Jersey. This was before the interstate highways and the 55 miles to New York took two and a half hours. New Jersey was almost as segregated as Mississippi with unwritten "rules" about where "colored" could eat or sit. The proposition of equality for women and those of different races and non-Christians was indeed open to question; one that would be decided upon on a case-by-case basis depending upon the way we "fit in" and met the expectations of our places in society. Could we strive and succeed financially? Yes, if we were careful. Could we join the golf club or swim in the public pool? No, that was asking too much but there was a lake down the road and a tree behind which one could change one's clothes. Things have changed, mostly for the better. As Dr. King said, "the arch of history bends towards justice." We are now in the midst of an American silly season. Here's to the hope that in the next year or two we will all be too busy and will ignore the grifter in chief and his henchmen.

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Spend 7 minutes with descendants of Frederick Douglass on the Fourth of July:

“At a time like this, scorching irony not convincing argument is needed. Oh, had I, the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would today pour out a fiery steam of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire. It is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm. The feeling of the nation must be quickened. And the conscience of the nation must be roused. The propriety of the nation must be startled. The hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed and its crimes against God and man must be denounced.”


and you can read it for yourself:


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In 1964, my middle school history teacher had all 30 of us students memorize the Gettysburg address (your letter today contained almost all of it!) … then we each had to recite it… clearly … slowly … took over a week of class time … never knew what the big deal was til I started reading your LETTERS, Prof Richardson. Thank you so very much, Mr Gillette for putting that hand grenade in my head.

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Happy Fourth of July! I can proudly announce that my distant paternal grandfather, Smith Turner, fought in The American Revolutionary War with the Virginia 9th Regiment at Brandywine and Germantown. He was a private in Washington's Army, discharged out of Valley Forge.

I always enjoy reading Heather's commentaries. Today's "4th" article, for me, emphasizes how our great Republic resides in a constant state of tension; a battle, it seems, between good and evil, goodness and badness. As a white male who grew up very Middle Class, I have yet after seven-plus decades of life to understand the reluctance to share our world with people who are non-white, non-heterosexual and non-Christian. That last one really "gets me going", because as a graduate, ordained Seminarian I see those "Christians'' as being not even close to the reality.

I love our country, for which I stood proud and tall as a young USAF Staff Sergeant in my very early twenties. I did not then feel the sadness and shame I feel today. "Who will wrest us from these talons of evil?" I continue to ask myself. How will "independence" grace the lives of so many who still remain nearly second-class, their lives graced with prejudice by addled old white men; and, in some cases, women? Yet, that voice within me continues to nag, "Keep the faith! Never give up. Never give in! Soldier on!"

As I proudly salute Old Glory, tears still well up. We are better than this current moment. I pray to Almighty God, or whatever "god" you might pray to, that we embrace the goodness that is found in most of us, as we peel away the darkness that continues to unsettle us and attempts to deter us from our greater good.

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Today, Biden is our Lincoln. May our government of the people, by the people, for the people, again not perish from the earth.

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Morning, all!! Morning, Dr. R!! And a shout out to all of us who think it worthy to keep striving for that more perfect union!

On a personal note, I discovered I was blocked by substack and therefore could not access today's Letter. I went over to FB only to find it there. So with all the IT prowess I could muster, I am here now to say...I persevered! But for those couple of hours, I can't tell you how disconnected I felt. No offense to FB, but it simply wasn't the same without all of you!

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Good morning all! I appreciate this letter, HCR, but I also am having a bit of trouble with the idea of letting Jefferson and Co off the hook for failing utterly to do what they claimed they were setting out to do. I have never been one who could ignore the hypocrisy and double-dealing of the originators of the USA. And they knew they were being hypocrites: this was not a case of ignorance at all. As John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, when she charged him to "remember the ladies," he and his collaborators would never nullify their "masculine systems." https://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/archive/doc?id=L17760331aa https://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/archive/doc?id=L17760414ja&rec=sheet&archive=&hi=&numRecs=&query=&queryid=&start=&tag=&num=10&bc=

As we see in the horrible decision of the judge to extend Britney Spears's involuntary servitude to her "conservators," in the SCOTUS decisions to welcome even more dark money into politics and allow states to restrict voting on the basis that voting is something people should have to struggle to do (my takeaway from Alito's appalling majority decision), especially if they are not privileged and white, the fallout of the failures of the creators of the Declaration are still with us. Indeed, the 19th century was a real century of new oppressions: of the working classes in the industrialization of the West, in the further scraping away of women's rights to property and autonomy, in the expansion of imperialism and the racist pseudo science used to justify it. All this dynamism to further enrobe the white privileged classes in more privilege.

Sorry for the downer folks. It's been that kind of morning.

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Happy 4th to you and yours. Remembering Miss Hodges' 1959-60 12th Grade Government Class. One of her memorable warnings was, "Every day you have to fight to keep/maintain our democracy." What (is)/was so hard won, can be lost to those who want to control our government for power and personal gain not life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of every American. Miss Hodges' explained the unique provision in the Constitution of a free press to insure our democracy, and it was the responsibility of every citizen to inform him/herself, to vote and to be active in their local, state and federal governments. We learned the power of the Constitution through the creation of a federal government, within our class of over 40 (the 1942 WWII war babies large class size). Miss Hodges, I learned later, was a practicing member of the Society of Friends, thought to be related to my maternal Grandmother in some way. My parents, particularly my Dad encouraged us to question everyone and everything. "I'm not raising sheep, I'm raising intelligent, questioning kids!" he reminded us They modeled reading and conversation (not bullying) where another point of view was seen as your constitutional right and responsibility. Through my ancestry research, I have come to realize hundreds of my ancestors (except for one great grandfather in the 1860s) immigrated to all but 3 of the colonies from 1618 thru the 1700s and their descendants, fought to establish the new nation (even some of my Quakers ancestors). On July 4th, 2021 I honor the birth of my beloved paternal grandfather, John Kenneth Merrell (1898-1962); I am thankful for the health of my family and friends; and I realize there is no resting place in the affairs of humans. So tired, but I will fight on for our democracy and our Constitution, honoring those whose DNA I carry and the opportunity for my descendants to participate and contribute to the grand experiment.

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Wishing all my American friends a happy and peaceful 4th July. May your hamburgers be perfectly cooked, the fireworks beautiful. Dear HCR, thank you for your clarity and calm in such politically frightening times. One day, surely, we will be able to celebrate that "equality for all".

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And a very happy Independence Day to you, dear Prof. HCR!

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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."

I had these words memorized, at least, thirty years before I came to live in these United States. I revered them because they represented the truths and values of life, irrespective of who you are, what you believe, or the color of your skin. They formed the foundation of my beliefs long before I became a US citizen, long before I was interested in politics, long before I understood that life isn't perfect and that "unalienable rights" aren't bequeathed to all men, women, genders, and peoples, regardless of race, gender, creed, and ideology.

The truth is that these principles have never been upheld, respected nor internally validated except by a few choice individuals who have been subsequently, tortured, imprisoned, and censored for speaking truth to power -- to white power.

And yet, as you so correctly state, Prof. HCR, today, we face a group of white people who refuse to share their liberties with our BIPOC populations. I will be unable to celebrate this July fourth with the same fervor as in years passed, but celebrate, I will, for I profoundly believe in and stand by these words. For I "hold these truths to be self-evident, 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."

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Dr. Richardson, thank you for being you!

We have to continue the battle for the freedom of those who are oppressed. We have so many hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens who don't even know they are oppressed. It is a sad state of affairs that is bordering on tragic. "In a world that had been dominated by a small class of rich men for so long that most people simply accepted that they should be forever tied to their status at birth, a group of upstart legislators clinging to the edge of a continent declared that no man was born better than any other. America was founded on the radical idea that all men are created equal."

Let us continue to fight for the freedom of one and all.

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Nevermore so, in the past 160 years, has Independence Day been so important, so pertinent, and yet so fragile.

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