Today we celebrate when the founding fathers cast off their imperial chains, but they didn’t break them. They took those same chains down to the auction block and wrapped them around their fellow human beings instead. It was a weird type of independence, their revolution. To become independent from a king, and abolish your taxes to him, and then use the savings to buy even more humans. And use those humans for free labor to become even richer. I’m not defending the king. Fuck the king. Kill the king I say. But when you get free, your job should be to free others, not use your freedom to oppress someone else.
Freedom, in this country, has always had venomous undertones. It’s a strange idea. Some see it as a freedom from oppression. Others see it as the freedom to oppress. The founding fathers had some lofty ideals and wrote wonderful things about liberty and equality, but they didn’t practice them. A vast majority clung to the freedom to oppress. When I think of revolution and freedom, there is one country that comes to mind: Haiti.
Haiti was the most successful slave rebellion in history. The leaders were brave brilliant souls who gave everything for the pursuit of freedom, and when they won it, they wanted to use that freedom to free the entire world. They were very much influenced by the founding fathers, and drew inspiration in much of their writings, but they didn’t just talk a bunch of bullshit, they actually meant it. They went to the United States. They expected to be treated warmly, like soldiers on the same side of a shared struggle. They were like, “hello brothers, we too have shaken the yolk of colonialism, kicked our imperial masters back to Europe. Let us be allies and partners in this new world.”
And what did the United States do? They pretty much laughed them out of the room and tried to suppress their revolution. Thomas Jefferson refused to even recognize their independence. Our government feared that if Haiti was recognized as a legitimate government, it might spark a slave revolt in the United States, so we embargoed trade with Haiti, tried to starve them out, make them suffer. It worked. The entire world turned its back on Haiti, and what transpired was bloody awful and cruel and too long to go on about in a Facebook post. They were the richest colony in the new world, and now they are poorest in the western hemisphere. From Thomas Jefferson to the Clintons, American rulers have been exploiting Haitians for centuries.
But at the time, Haiti kicked France’s ass so bad they helped bankrupt them. The French were so desperate for cash, they started having to sell off assets, pennies on the dollar. One of the things they had to sell was the Louisiana territory. Guess who bought that? You already know. If you live in Louisiana today, you’re an American, and if you’re thankful for that, you not only owe the founding fathers of this country, but the founding fathers of Haiti. It was another case of black men suffering and dying for something and rich white men reaping the reward.
We gloss over this in history class though. They just say, in 1803, America bought Louisiana from the French, yada yada yada, but they never say why France had to sell. They never talk about how other peoples’ freedom is connected to our own. We aren’t taught these types of things in school because it develops class consciousness, which is the last thing the rulers of this country want or ever wanted. So when I see words like “freedom” and “independence” a bunch on the timeline, I can’t help but think about Haiti, and their struggle and their victory, and how it shaped the world we now live in… And, how we are all still part of that struggle.