“Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.” Citizens of the United States of America grow up hearing these words echo in their ears. They see it in advertising, campaign speeches, the news, and any patriotic material. But this statement, this theme that those patriots cling to has not always been true for everyone. Frederick Douglass elaborated on this underlying contradiction and moral failure of the United States. Specifically, his speech, What, to the slave, is the Fourth of July?, demonstrates the concepts of the True and the Good as established in the Platonic framework as he pursues both concepts by proving their opposites to be true for the United States.
Douglass delves into the realm of the rhetoric of the citizen. He condemns the citizens here for their hypocritical rhetoric that the slave observes on the Fourth of July: “your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery … a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages” (Douglass). Essentially, everything that the slave observes is a lie. Everything the slave observes represents hypocritical double standards created by their oppressors to further otherize and dehumanize the slave. Here, Douglass’s critique of the citizenry reflects the concerns and critique that Socrates gave in regards to rhetoric and its uses in the Gorgias: “rhetoric seems not to be an artistic pursuit at all, but that of a shrewd, courageous spirit, which is naturally clever at dealing with men; I shall call the chief part of it flattery” (Plato 23). Flattery is necessarily a deceitful as it seeks to hide certain flaws or faults. The rhetoric and celebration of the Fourth of Ju...
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...ric forces them to come to terms with the fact they have, as a nation, moved away from the truth by creating these double standards that go against the truths that the founders held to be “self-evident”. Douglass forces the audience, after seeing these inconsistencies, to come to grips with the horrible evil that is slavery. He condemns those directly involved in the slave trade for committing this injustice while also condemning those silent and thus complicit with slavery. He unveils to atrocious crimes being committed by in the United States by the United States, its citizens, its courts, and even its churches. Douglass does not believe it is unchangeable. No, instead he maintains hope and optimism that this young country can correct itself. The “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave” can live up to its title instead of “Land of the Greedy and Home of the Slave”.
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