Updated: Jul 7
Now that the sky-high explosions and over-consumption of beer and hot dogs is over, we can talk about what we really celebrate every year on the Fourth of July.
It all started with a bunch of privately-educated white men in a room, drafting a document called the Declaration of Independence. It was an act of war, of rebellion, of treason. Not for war’s sake but for freedom’s.
It was the start of this great social experiment called democracy and the start of a shift in global politics that we still see in action today. But it did not end the never-ending battle between love of country and love of supremacy.
Whether we want to admit it or not, patriotism can give way to nationalism and we have a long history of social strife in this country because of it.
Democracy isn’t immune to blindness. It can be beautiful, yet destructive -- perhaps best exemplified by the explosions we shoot boldly into the sky once a year.
When “We the People” have power, our fallible humanness is just as capable of failure as it is of progress.
That means we have to not lose sight of what makes our Independence great while we celebrate the ceremonies that we associate with patriotism.
A flag is more than a flag. It’s a manifestation of the ideals that make up a nation of people. It also represents sacrifice, both of the soldiers who march and die protecting it abroad and the social justice warriors who march and die protecting it at home.
A flag is also a piece of cloth. That’s why this nation allows its people to burn it, to defile it, to refuse to stand for it. In the same way a flag can represent pride in our nation, the act of refusing to pay it deference can be a protest of its failures.
To say that one cannot protest a flag is to say that the nation cannot be protested. This is contrary to the very independence that founded these United States.
Our declaration, sent on July 4, 1776, says that ours is to be a government made up of people “deriving their just Powers from the consent of the the governed.” Our symbols represent this consent. To refuse anyone the right to deny consent is to strip away the very fabric of freedom itself -- for all of us, not just the ones being silenced.
Our symbols are important. We SHOULD celebrate them. But when they become a tool by which we swear blind allegiance rather than something we choose to revere, we are not a free or independent nation. That’s not patriotism, it’s tyranny.