I get a little nutty about the 4th of July. I have a tricorn hat I bought in Concord, MA that I drag out specifically for the 4th every year. I have a ’76 flag that I run up, and this year we added a host of bunting to the front of the garage. Every time there is a Sousa song, I cheer. I ALWAYS sing along to Stars and Stripes Forever. Put a sparkler in my hands and let me run free, and I’m the happiest lady ever.
I’ve been seeing all these things online this year, though, that make it seem like celebrating the 4th when this country needs so much improvement is somehow blasphemous. Or silly. Or just not right somehow. Like if you want to do it, especially if you’re going balls-to-the-wall, you’re what’s wrong with escapist America.
I consider myself a realist when it comes to things. I don’t want to bury my head in the sand and forget that Black people are dying unnecessarily, or that it took a Supreme Court case to insure an entire segment of the population could get married, or miss the argument that there is any merit at all to consider flying the Confederate flag over a government building. I want to debate drone strikes, gun control, and privacy laws. I want to look at all the ways America has not measured up to her promise and work to fix those things.
On every other day than the 4th of July.
I realize that this is probably controversial. But here is why:
Say what you like about how our country operates in practice, but it’s a pretty amazing idea. Before people like John Locke, it was just CRAZY to think that people had any rights at all. And here is our country, founded on the principle that people deserve to be able to seek happiness, attempting to guarantee that you can associate with anyone you choose without repercussions, and ensuring you can say whatever you want to and about whomever you want. There is something beautiful in there. And when you add in all the crazy stories of the regular folks who made this thing a reality, it gets even better. Like, to the point where I get a little leaky around the eye (I’m not crying – you’re crying).
To me, the Fourth is a time to think of all these things. It’s time to revel in the stories of these Founding Fathers, to look at the principles they passed down, and to celebrate that they’ve made it in this world for another year. The Fourth isn’t about reality. It’s not about what America is. It’s about what America could be. Fly the flag, wear a bald eagle or a tricorn hat, muster on the green, go in search of fireworks. Bathe in patriotism like a pig in mud.
Then, take all that idealism and use it on July 5th. There’s plenty of stuff out there to fix, and with a renewed fervor for freedom, it becomes all the easier to see what those things are. It becomes easier to want to change them.