From the fireworks to hot dogs, most people see Independence Day as a day to celebrate the United States of America, but should we really still be celebrating this holiday? Should we celebrate a country with countless problems that just don’t seem to get solved? Well, I’ll break down my opinion and the history behind this, and hopefully by the end of this article, we’ll both have a deeper understanding of American Independence Day.
Lots of countries have their own “Fourth of July” type holidays, but they just aren’t on the same day. For example, Canada’s is July 1st, Cuba’s is October 10th, Vietnam’s is September 2nd, and Ghana’s is March 6th.
What does Independence Day mean? Independence days, no matter the country, mark the day that the country broke free from the rule and power of another country. For the US, we broke away from England. On July 4th, 1776, the Founding Fathers declared that the Thirteen Colonies were no longer subordinate or hegemonized to the monarchy of Britain. King George III was no longer in power over the Thirteen Colonies and they declared that they were to be known from then on as “The United States of America.”
There are many different customs for how to celebrate Independence Day, but it mainly includes parades, fireworks, BBQs, and wearing red, white, and blue. Most places do big firework shows with big crowds, some people set them off illegally by themselves, but the firework shows are kind of the most iconic part of the holiday.
The point however, is to celebrate the US.
It’s just hard to celebrate this country when it doesn’t seem to be celebrating us, when people of certain identities are constantly fighting to be seen and heard while being targeted and attacked, when the government is passing bills constantly that make it just so much harder to be an American citizen—when progress isn’t being made.
For me at least, I’ve felt like we’ve really been moving backwards lately. With Roe V Wade being overturned last year, the recent supreme court rulings, bills being passed in states prohibiting accurate puberty and sex education, the banning of books, oppression, and literally just every other problem we’re facing; it just feels like we’re moving backwards in so many ways.
As someone who doesn’t have the same privilege as the people making these decisions and passing these bills, it’s really hard to just sit back and watch this, internalize it as normal, and then turn around and feel good about this country that is trying to discard people like me and others who are even less fortunate and privileged than I am.
Here’s my feelings about current America: we’re an extremely greedy, capitalistic society. We believe that we live in a federation, a presidential system, a constitutional republic, but you have to question whether or not all that still rings true.
Personally, I believe we’ve become more of an oligarchy—a country run by a few select power-hungry privileged people who belong to the dominant cultures (white, male, high socioeconomic status, straight, cisgender) in our society. I can’t even say, underneath all that, that we’re still in a presidential system, because the supreme court seems to be holding a lot more power than Biden, or maybe Biden just doesn’t care enough to reverse the damage done. If he wanted to, he could. Constitutionally and legally, he would be able to override the supreme court rulings, but personally I just don’t think he cares enough.
Maybe that’s just the cynic in me. Maybe I should have more pride in my country, especially considering I’m a third generation American, but when my country just made rulings less than a week ago making it harder for so many to get into college, to reinstate business principles that are reminiscent of holocaust times and the segregation era, and making it so my parents can’t pay off their student loan debt, it makes me really question how much they care about us.
Here’s the point I’ve reached: our government places more value on our economy than our people. Although, I think that it would’ve been a very smart move for our economy to relieve student debt, because people’s credit scores would improve so much more and they’d be able to make more purchases, causing more profit being made, but hey—that’s just me.
While I love this country in that I think we’ve got some really beautiful parts of it geographically and historically, I’d say we also have some really bloody parts of history, and a bit of a bloody present, that are really hard to neglect.
So for me, Independence Day is bittersweet. I recognize the journey my grandpa made to come here for a better opportunity and the amount of struggle so many people have made to change the way things are. I recognize how far we have come since even just twenty years ago. I’m proud of that. What I’m not proud of is a lot of the decisions that are currently being made. They don’t represent us all as Americans, only a certain percentage of Americans.
So, should we celebrate the Fourth of July?
To answer, sure, if you want to. Obviously no one is forcing you to or not to celebrate. Who am I to tell you what to do?
To pose ourselves as being the best country, though? There’s a problem there. American exceptionalism is not exceptional, and we need to recognize the systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, discrimination, and classism that many Americans face each day. While we have advantages that other countries don’t have, we also have some disadvantages and we need to fix those—not just ignore them.
Thank you for reading, and happy Independence Day!