Today marks the 241st anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in the USA (well technically, it wasn’t signed until a month later, but details, details…), thereby making the vast nation officially independent from England. Since then, the 4th of July has become a national holiday during which people take off work to spend time with family, have barbecues, and otherwise celebrate their pride of being American, living in the “land of the free.”
As a child, I would spend my 4th of July holidays at home with my family—we usually have a low-key dinner before heading out to catch the fireworks at our hometown’s park around 21:00. I remember them going off so loudly, so close to where I was standing, and be frightened and mesmerized at the same time. The fireworks tradition, however, stopped as I got older, as well as more skeptical of what the holiday implied to many of us citizens especially in today’s ever-polarizing society (with “you-know-who” as president).
I’m American by birth, having been born and raised in Los Angeles all of my life. My parents are Taiwanese immigrants who came over in the late 80’s for graduate school, then got jobs and started a family. They’re what you would call the epitome of the “American Dream.” Growing up, I’ve never taken for granted just how much they put into me and my sister’s life: food, shelter, education, love for travel, etc. They’ve raised us well, and I’m ever grateful for that.
How my parent’s story relates to today, however, it has to do with what being American is. While many people might believe that it’s a matter of pledging yourself to the flag or believing that their country is the biggest, richest, and best one out there, I would argue that being American is simply a matter of, yes, loving your country, but loving others which might not hold up to the image of the generic, white American man. I’m talking about the diversity of people in our country—immigrants like my parents, children of immigrants, people of different faiths and religions, those who aren’t part of the cisgender, heteronormative norm—who make our nation, the United States of America, a messy but beautiful melting pot that we must learn to embrace in these times of uncertainty and fear. We must remember that our country was built by immigrants and that it’ll continue to serve as one in the years to come, so we must accept that.
Admittedly, I’ve become cynical when it comes to the idea of the 4th of July holiday, just because it’s laden with so much irony, on its concept of celebrating freedom and pride when not everyone who lives in the United States can have them. All the same, I’m not stopping people from celebrating the day with barbecue and fireworks—if it’s not about freedom, then at least it’s about love, with your family, friends, spouses, and whoever is important in your life.
Wishing everyone a wonderful day, holiday or not!
— The Finicky Cynic
Check me out on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/thefinickycynic