The fourth of July feels extremely different for me this year and it’s mainly because I finally realized that the United States of America was never “great” for everyone. Over the course of my life, I grew up thinking America was the best country in the world—we have peace, we have freedom, we have equality, and we collectively work towards goals to better our communities and the world around us—and while some of that is true, it is not lost on me that this year there are unsettling, traumatic, and downright insidious things that are happening all over the country, to Americans, and those who long to be Americans.
How does one celebrate the fourth of July, when one is deeply concerned with the trajectory of the country?
Don’t get me wrong, I am tremendously thankful for the 200 of years of independence and hurdles we have collectively overcome. I am thankful for our troops and veterans who fought to defend my rights. I am thankful for the police officers who protect our cities and towns. I am thankful for the politicians who are actively working for the betterment of our world. I am thankful for the freedom to marry who I want to marry and worship how I want to worship. BUT, this year, I am not tremendously proud of my country, and I am ashamed of myself for not realizing it sooner.
It goes without saying but for a lot of Americans, there are serious issues they have to overcome daily and when our government systematically separated children in front of their parents with no plans to reunite them, children (and adults) are shot dead in schools more than any other country in the world, people are still seen and oppressed due to the color of their skin, rather than the content of their character, women’s rights seem to be constantly up for debate, and LGBTQIA issues are constantly under threat, the whole indivisible thing seems to be thrown out the window.
And yet, there is a tune reverberating throughout the country that is strung together by the millions of Americans who are passionate and vulnerable and fighting for their space to live and love and nurture their communities and are constant examples of what it means to actually be an American.
This fourth of July my prayer is that their voices ring the loudest. This fourth of July I will celebrate them. This fourth of July I will celebrate the long arc that bends towards justice, mercy, and love—and in doing so, I will recommit myself to being an American, and work towards defending and fighting for what it actually means to make America “great,” not again, because it never was, but for the future, for myself, for you, for us, for the betterment of mankind.
That’s what I plan on celebrating this fourth of July, what about you?
Image via Joshua McKnight