Independence day is always something of an odd holiday for me. I understand that the initial point and purpose of the holiday was to celebrate our successful parting from England, but it feels a little weird to carry that, here, now, some two hundred and twenty three years later. This is, of course, why the holiday seems to have transformed of late into a nationalistic holiday that incorporates patriotism “against the world” as its theme.
I’m not sure I find that an improvement.
I realize that saying this is tempting the hordes of staunch nationalists to descend upon my head. I reckon I’ll just have to take that chance. You see, I sincerely believe we’re not really going to make much progress as a species until we manage to get over the notion that nationalism and patriotism are helpful things; that the entire notion of there being a ‘them’ that we (‘us’) must be set against or feel superior to, be that in national pride or otherwise, just seems kind of impeding to me.
Not to mention the notion of a ‘best’ anything is, of course, wholly subjective and focusing upon that tends to insure the point at which we begin living as a human community rather than a larger version of clans upon this planet just remains that much further out of reach.
Don’t get me wrong. I totally “get it” that history happening as it did is the reason I can say/write any of this. Yes, I certainly appreciate that. But it seems a bit silly to cling to that as if it was somehow the pinnacle of our progress rather than think about ways to continue moving forward and pay homage to those sacrifices best by insuring we do not hesitate or halt along the path toward continued liberty and, more importantly, redefining the concept to be inclusive rather than exclusive of our fellow man.
I find it hard to celebrate our aggregate good fortune when I know for a fact there are so many truly miserable and suffering people in the world. It feels like one of those European affairs, where all the well to do celebrate some wonderful event behind the opulent gates whilst the folk who are so weighed down by poverty and hunger that they’re incapable of seeing over the rim of Maslow’s Heirarchy scurry about in the streets, looking for crumbs and, occasionally, casting angry glances toward the elite party.
It’s a Gordian knot, of course. There is no “one solution” to solve the ills and problems in this world, to be sure. I keep thinking that maybe, somewhere, someday, someone will get the idea that the best celebration of our own independence is to spend the day (more than one?) helping others find or figure out how to reach it for themselves.
Or, better yet, that we might turn our focus and interest toward the notion of interdependence, and honor our liberty more truly by working to see it delivered to others in the world. Which is why the notion of nationalism and patriotism irks me more than anything… because it seems we’re forever and ever more likely to force our ‘liberty’ upon others than seek to find ways to demonstrate why it is worth embracing and be welcoming rather than warring to accomplish it.
This, of course, is why I tend to keep my mind from roaming “political” paths. It seems to me that, more often than not, bureaucracy and politics hamper more than they help. The kind of change I’d like to see in the world never happens at those levels anyway, instead, they happen person by person, close to home and via community.
Which is kind of why it disturbs me that on a day like this, we’d rather blow things up, drink, and BBQ than anything.
I often feel it has become unacceptable to say such things, but then, I remember that the best part of independence as our country knows it is precisely that one is able to express themselves without fear of retaliation.
Then there is the reality that, before I could say them here, to the collective “you”, I first had to say them to myself and get that big “H” of hypocrisy off of my head. (chuckle)
My own independence day has undergone some changes since these thoughts occurred. Kind of hard to think such things and not choose differently. Well, it’s hard for me, anyway. So, I’m about to head out to see about things at the local shelter, conveniently located two blocks from my place. I figure there’s likely some pretty hungry folks there and not a lot of volunteer staff about today.