In addition to bombastic speeches, fireworks and alcohol, the U.S. will also be celebrating its time-honored Fourth of July tradition of sending a high-profile pop star to perform at the notorious U.S. torture center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This year, the “Freedom Festival” will star Ludacris, the well-known hip-hop artist.
The military base is thrilled as “Gitmo hasn’t seen a star with as big a name as Ludacris in several years,” Navy Chief Hilley told the Miami Herald.
Some might say there is a glaring contradiction when freedom is celebrated in a center renowned for torturing individuals without oversight or due process. However, this contradiction only exists if we seek to understand ideas like “freedom,” “democracy” and “equality” through the common definitions of these words. The United States, on the other hand, has only understood these noble concepts in the context of imperialism. When the U.S. military “liberates” or “brings peace” to nations, it turns them into an Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya. Peace means an end to stability, safety and a future.
When the U.S. founders proclaimed that “all men are created equal,” it was with the knowledge that there were then millions of people living under slavery. When U.S. settlers brought freedom to America, it cost millions of Native peoples their lives. Equality means that the ruling elites enjoy a common worth that excludes all other. Freedom means a good life only for those with the wealth to afford it.
This imperialist history simply perpetuates itself when the U.S. military celebrates freedom and democracy at its torture center in Cuba, a foreign nation a part of which the U.S. illegally occupies. These words become the language of Empire in the U.S. and are used by the ruling class to both justify the unjustifiable and oppress those it seeks to exploit.
As global capitalism continues to spiral into crisis, and the oppression of the working class intensifies, many wonder about this “democracy” they live in. Perhaps their freedoms aren’t as “self-evident” as they once were. Perhaps this Empire isn’t the safe bosom of peace and equality it promised to be. Perhaps when senators cry out in praise of “freedom” and “independence” this Fourth of July, they mean something entirely different.