MSNBC's Harris-Perry Marks July 4 By Noting American Imperialism and Genocide, But Also Prisoners with GEDs

July 4th, 2012 7:28 AM

You know you're watching MSNBC when the ruminations on Independence Day are tied directly to Obama. On Sunday, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry promised, "Up next, my footnote for the Fourth of July, which is, of course, Malia Obama's birthday."

It was another left-wing lecture about all our historic black marks: "But it's ours, all of it. The imperialism, the genocide, the slavery, also the liberation and the hope and the deeply American belief that our best days still lie ahead of us." Harris-Perry found the American Dream in prisoners getting their GEDs at Rikers Island:

HARRIS-PERRY: But Independence Day is more aspirational than actual. We have longed defined the American Dream with commodities, a home of ones own, better education for the kids, family vacation and a car to the vacation in.

And if we measure the dream by acquisitions, we`re trouble. National unemployment remains above 8 percent. Wages have dropped, and the median net worth of American families plummeted by almost 40 percent.

Financial security is important, but it`s only an outward manifestation of the American Dream. Freedom itself is both more elusive and more complicated. Our founding is not an acquisition and merger story of young entrepreneurs looking to maximize profit -- or at least not solely that. I mean, our founding is an unlikely narrative of young men, so inspired by an age of ideas that they threw off the yoke of colonialism and founded a free nation -- men who were embarrassingly imperfect.

The land on which they formed this Union was stolen. The hands with which they built this nation were enslaved. The women who birthed the citizens of the nation are second class.

But all of this is our story. Each of us benefits from the residuals of oppression and each of success harmed by the realities of inequality. This is the imperfect fabric of our nation, at times we`ve torn and stained it, and at other moments, we mend and repair it.

But it's ours, all of it. The imperialism, the genocide, the slavery, also the liberation and the hope and the deeply American belief that our best days still lie ahead of us.

Which is why my favorite Independence Day story this week is about a group who are not technically free. A class of 27 inmates, teens and adults, who received their GEDs Tuesday at the correctional facility on Rikers Island. Despite being incarcerated, they hold fast to the optimistic belief that education, hard work and second chances are still the stuff of America. And that they have a right to take part in the dream.

Of the graduation, Corrections Department Commissioner Dora Schriro said, "We are about rebuilding the past and building futures."

So on the 4th of July, I`m going to think of the Rikers Island graduates, and I'm going to wave a flag without hesitation -- not because I've forgotten my nation`s many wrongs, but because I remember them. And I am nonetheless proud of my country, not because of perfection, because the alternative is too grim, the alternative is to give up on the dream of the nation founded in the belief, if not yet the practice that all are created, all deserve freedom, and all have the right to pursue happiness.

Now, that is a dream worth celebrating -- with fireworks.