As a recent immigrant to Germany, I can’t help but look back at the current state of the US this 4th of July. It stands to me as an interesting contradiction that I get to witness from thousands of miles away. I see people celebrating freedom while tanks are being rolled into Washington DC for the first time in decades (since June 1991). I see people celebrating the tenets of what it means to be an American while immigrants are being locked up in what effectively amounts to concentration camps. I believe that the life those immigrants are hoping for is the foundation of what built America. And I see people celebrating while the basic infrastructure of democracy in the United States is being attacked from all angles.
But I think most importantly, I see lots of people arguing rather than talking. I want to see people put aside the battles to celebrate the country, the heritage, and the history; lest the 4th of July be turned into a politicized folly for the (perceived) gain of the few. It would be gratifying if everyone took a step back long enough to remember that America is celebrating freedom from oppression while simultaneously oppressing many who simply have a similar dream.
I’ve always looked at the 4th of July as a unifying holiday. The long weekend in the summer where people “American it up” about 10 notches with BBQs, fireworks, and absurdly American bikinis, tank tops, towels, and anything else people have figured out how to American flag-ify. But it would be nice if, for a change of pace, people enjoyed each other’s company, remembered that beer gets pretty much everyone drunk, and that hot dogs are still as disgusting as ever when dipped in water (for hot dog eating contests). I genuinely believe people should go to see pointlessly large fireworks displays and nearly go deaf because they forgot to bring ear plugs. That people BBQ disgusting quantities of meat and drink excessive amounts of beer on the water. And they should do it all while remembering that the USA, while not perfect, has generally been aimed towards being inclusive of others, even when progress is slow.
So if you know an American, you can (and probably should) say, “Happy 4th of July.” And remember, many of those Americans are likely just as conflicted about what’s going on in the country as you are. But America is a land of opportunity. Which means there is still room for growth and change. And hopefully, this July 4th is a time where that sentiment will be fostered. Happy 4th of July America.