The Fourth of July: A Tale of Hypocrisy and Hope
Yesterday I was setting at an English pub watching the Euro quarter finals. During halftime, I had a short discussion about the meaning of the Fourth of July with another spectator and the barkeep, a Brit intern. The spectator commented jokingly that he thought it odd that a British pub was celebrating the day when we kicked them out. The young barkeep replied with just as much humor that it was just another day and to not make a big thing of it. He then mentioned how then how for the most part, the Fourth was just a day of fireworks and having work off. The true meaning of the date lost of over the centuries.
Though a humourous take, Epic Rap Battles of History's parody hints at differences of how different people may view July 4th
Lost in the Grey
The meaning of this day is important because no one knows what that meaning is or should be anymore. In a time where a presidential race is between two people that many Americans find neither desirable or are sharply polarized, and where the struggle for equality and diversity still continues in light of cop killings and economic disparity, Independence Day seems something of a sick joke.
We were raised that America was founded as a nation of aspiring ideals, equal rights for all people that soldiers died for. Then we were educated just how flawed those origins were with racism, war, slavery, and land stealing to name a few ‘discrepancies’. Yet somehow, we still held on to the optimism that things can be better, even when you had to fight for it. Therefore July 4th isn’t so much a date that is polarized in our population, as much as it is a duality that our nation has existed with since the beginning.
Chasing a Ghost Made Flesh
When an ideology, art piece, or creation is discussed and made into something material, it takes the form of the creators who shaped it. Their hopes, dreams, flaws and prejudices, all make it into the marble statue, with some features more obvious than others at certain times. However, like how George Lucas discovered with Starwars, sometimes the creation can take a life of its own.
It transcends the original limitations of the ideals set by the creator and evolves into something more: something that becomes separated from the creators’ flaws and prejudices and that literally changes shape with each generation that is born into it. This is the true story of Independence Day and America as well. Donald Trump likes to say “Make America great again”, and to be sure we have had our great moments in certain areas. But it was always cracked. Someone always suffered, paid the tab for that greatness.
James Earl Jones reading Frederick Douglass’s famous 1852 Independence Day address in Rochester, New York
Keeping the Faith
Normally this enough to make one lose faith and either cynically settle on not changing anything, or move on to something or someplace better that wasn’t as hypocritical. This hasn’t happened to America, at least not yet. In spite of our hypocrisy, the hypocrisy of the Fourth of July, no matter what our individual paths are, we still see the light of the ideals as something worth striving for because we see it not as a fantasy but a possibility
So the Fourth of July will remain conflicted for us for a long time, and it should to honor all those who suffered the injustices. However it will also be a day worth celebrating, because it’s not the celebration of a flawed nation as much as it is the celebration of what that flawed nation, and maybe the world by proxy, aspires to be one day.