The Fourth of What?

As I write this blog, fireworks are going on outside. The smells of sulfur and barbecue fill the air, and a smoky haze is hanging all around.

I remember a time when all Americans celebrated the Fourth of July happily, because they believed this was a great country. We were raised to believe that. We were indoctrinated in the belief that the United States of America was the land of the free and home of the brave. Those very words are part of our national anthem. The Statue of Liberty stands as a symbol of our practice of welcoming all who drift to our shores. She holds up a torch, for fuck’s sake, to light the way.

This Independence Day, however, is a somber one for many. The current administration has changed everything about us as a country and hung a dark cloud over our nation. It is doing its best to rip away all the hard-won rights that Americans have fought for, and is turning a once proud country into a desolate pit of depression and anxiety.

So, many people are now wondering what we should be celebrating Independence Day for, since the very foundation of our country—freedom—is going away, piece by piece.

Well, let me offer this. As of right now, we still have so much that other countries don’t have. Women, particularly, can vote, run for office, and voice our opinions, all things that some women in some countries cannot. And right there, we have a glimmer of hope. Women are the change. Women are the future. After all, it is Lady Liberty, isn’t it? Let’s celebrate what we can—and hopefully will—do.

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8 thoughts on “The Fourth of What?

  1. I’m out here in Las Vegas for the GCLS conference. The hotels and the city were rocking last night with people celebrating the 4th. I walked through the Bellagio hotel and casino at a time of day when hoards of (mostly white) country music fans were rushing to pick up their Toby Keith tickets for the evening concert. It was a madhouse of merrymakers. At Wahlburger, were my wife and I had lunch, families with kids were in abundance and the kids were excited for the fourth. At Bally’s, the conference hotel, it was a sea of faces of multiple national origins yesterday. In fact, they started pouring in here on Tuesday and it didn’t let up well into the afternoon.

    Back in the conference area, the mood was ‘We’re in Vegas, yeah!’ but otherwise even more subdued than the somewhat somber con opening of last year. That stood in pretty stark contrast to the merrymaking going on everywhere else and it illustrates a point. Not everyone sees what we see. Not everyone feels what we feel. Of those that do, they don’t to the same level that we do. The things that are happening haven’t touched them or don’t affect them to the degree that they do us. They’re not concerned and don’t even know they should be. Scary thought, isn’t it?

    We have to keep fighting but we also need to take into account that there’s an apathy out there that will be hard to combat.

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  2. I’m in a foreign country right now. Portugal’s island of Terceira, to be exact. I wore my American flag blouse yesterday, as I do on every 4th of July, drawing eyes. Some looked suspicious, some looked friendly. When I watched the sky over US Air Force base Lajes Field last night, not a single firework was seen. But then, Orrin Hatch was visiting, so maybe no one felt like celebrating, anyway.

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  3. Always worth re-reading: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”

    The New Colossus / Emma Lazarus

    Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
    With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
    Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
    A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
    Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
    Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
    Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
    The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
    “Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
    With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

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  4. “The current administration has changed everything about us as a country and hung a dark cloud over our nation.”

    I don’t wish to dismiss or diminish the atrocities committed by this administration, but I don’t really agree with this statement at all. If anything, this administration’s behaviour has shone a light on the dark cloud that has *always* hung over our nation, finally making a lot of white folks aware of how bad things have *always* been here. You write about remembering a time when every American was happy to celebrate 4th of July and believed in the greatness of this country, but I can’t say that I’ve personally ever experienced that unity or belief in the nation within my own communities here. America has never been great for black or brown folk. Never.

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    1. You’re absolutely right. What I wrote was a great simplification of things, for the sake of brevity. But you’re right, this administration just allowed all the nasty people to come into the light. What I was trying to say is that at least as far as legal measures were concerned, we were making progress with civil rights–for women, people of color, LGBT, etc. Everything–that is, the progress we had made–is now getting reversed. And I didn’t mean to say that this was such a great country where everyone was given equal opportunities, because that was never the case. I meant that the veneer of equality gave everyone hope that the future would be good. We no longer have that illusion. I hope that makes sense. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, O.

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