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Four Reasons Not To Celebrate the Fourth of July

Updated: Jul 07, 2022 09:19
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What are you really celebrating this Fourth of July?

The fourth of July supposedly symbolizes freedom. It means liberty, self-governance. Independence from tyranny. July 4th is supposed to be fun, because living in America was supposed to be fun. The ruling fathers wove opulence into the foundational documents of this country. They killed and enslaved for extravagant wealth, for the longevity of their lineage. Our government is a tradition passed down through eras of prosperity. Who is prospering right now?

America talks the talk and has for hundreds of years. In order for July 4th to mean anything other than amputations-by-explosive however, the United States needs an ethical overhaul. I refuse to celebrate the sovereignty of the elite, and I invite you to join me. Here you’ll find plenty of information to stoke your fires. I’ll put coffee on.

It should be stated that I’m not advocating all-out chaos. To hold and reflect the needs of our population, we need structure. Just not this one. 

The Overturn of Roe v. Wade

You don’t need a uterus to know that stripping someone of their autonomy is wrong. You do need one, however, to have an opinion about abortion. Even if it’s wrong and commits a gross injustice to people. Tell your trad-wife cousin this fourth of July she can hold her fucked-up opinions as tight to her chest as she likes. That’s her right as an American.

Roe v. Wade’s repeal signaled a steep, dark downturn in the course of America’s ever-troubled history. Our government has a lengthy track record of abusing the legal system to enforce class and racial hierarchies. Which horrific instance did you just think of? When what you are required to do by law commits an injustice to another person, resistance becomes essential. This is not about refusing government by and large. It’s about saying “No” to the agents of change ostensibly elected by the people.

I am sick of hearing “Well, vote!” in response to demands for effectual change. What happens when you vote with your conscience and lose? What if the majority rule is ethically flawed? Votes do not change institutions. They reinforce them. The validity of “majority rules” extends to anyone who submits to the idea that the majority is always right. We still consider human rights and “civil” rights two different things, and that thinking has consequences.

Complacency is easy. It is also what’s killing us. How is time being used against us? How can Biden vow to codify Roe v. Wade back in 2019 and get away with allowing its demise three years later? Many Americans claim they are “pro-life.” To which life exactly? Will white patriarchal standards code, shape, and police it? History is largely written on the body. How has the body fared among the political powers lately? Who has the agency now?

School Shootings and Gun Violence

Soon people across America will set off fireworks that sound like machine gun fire. It’s offensive to me that a kindergartener and a combat veteran can fundamentally share the same trauma. There’s been talk of building shooter-proof public schools, turning places of learning into sites of violent anticipation. The United States glorifies violence, and has for hundreds of years. I believe the reason is two-fold. 1) It intimidates the outsider, and 2) it excites the perpetrator.

I’m thinking of Rebecca Solnit’s book Savage Dreams, specifically her thoughts about nuclear war and the Nevada Test Site.

Other nations besides the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. had tested nuclear bombs, but only these two were rehearsing the end of the world, for they alone had developed enough bombs to annihilate not specific targets, but possibly whole continents of people and with them the natural order, the weather, perhaps the genetic codes of most living things.

Who exactly are acts of theatrical violence supposed to intimidate? Another way to look it might be, who do they exonerate? Placing the onus of global annihilation on Russia or North Korea throws off accusations of misuse and abuse of power. A nuclear showdown already happened. Civilian survivors of radioactive fallout as well as soldiers intentionally stationed in the blast zone are still dealing with government denial.

Sometimes violence happens slowly. It isn’t always a spectacle. Cause and effect are widely divided across space and time, and this can work both ways. Immediate violence certainly does make a statement though. People set police stations on fire because flames are hypervisible, drawing attention to what’s burning down from miles around. You make the problem visible as well as the solution.

Celebrating Genocide

The fourth of July is Thanksgiving with fireworks. Both holidays commemorate the birth of America, just at different intervals. the Pequot and Wampanoag people fed and provided shelter for Connecticut’s first colonizers. Despite this, once their colonies were prosperous, they slaughtered an estimated five hundred Pequot women, men, and children. Settlers held a “day of thanksgiving” in Pequot and Wampanoag territory to celebrate their victory. Today most Natives consider Thanksgiving a national Day of Mourning. And yet, since these feasts were regular Puritan functions, some still interpret it as “a tradition amongst English people, often to mark a gift from God.”

Historically speaking, colonizers called this place a melting pot until recently. Now, with immigrants still swain by the American Dream, America has closed its borders. Nothing will arrest the fallacy of freedom the founding of this country created. Efforts to do so fail with tragic repercussions, and we skate right over the fact that we have internment camps again. Children are still dying there. Have their deaths put a dent in Trump’s wall?

What does a wall represent to the world? It is both structure and symbol. It’s how we understand that what lies beyond was deliberately concealed. How does Trump’s wall, and for that matter the recent commotion about the hundred-mile border enforcement zone, structure the history it is actively making? Contractors built sections of it in some locales while others lack the barriers entirely. The wall has transformed from a means of keeping out one element to keeping in another. You cannot contain the threat if you are the threat.

More than once, our government has left us to die

Here’s a brief but staggering list of facts: More than one million Americans and counting have died because of COVID-19. Before the pandemic in January 2020, almost 600,000 people nationwide were estimated homeless. A failed War on Drugs has claimed far more lives than it foolishly endeavored to save. AIDS first appeared in 1981. President Ronald Reagan did not publicly acknowledge the virus until 1985. Between 1987 and 1998, AIDS killed over 324,000 women and men across the United States. Meanwhile, doctors forcibly sterilized 70,000 women after a supreme court ruling deemed the involuntary operation legal for the “feebleminded.” The procedure is still legal in thirty-one states. The list goes on and on and it’s making me sad. Flint, Michigan still doesn’t have clean water.

Last thoughts

Look, I love talking shit with the girls. There’s something inviting about burning the whole thing down. If you want to blow shit up this fourth of July though, consider a power structure instead. Maybe we don’t want to dismiss the whole structure just yet. What if we try to improve it? We can imagine new definitions of nationhood. Can we access our collective consciousness by appealing to the relative best in all of us?

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Jake Warren

Jake Warren

A Potawatomi nonfiction writer and Tenderloin resident possessing an Indigenous perspective on sexuality and a fascination with etymological nuance. Queer decolonial leftist, cannabis industry affiliate, seasoned raver, and unofficial earthquake authority.


  1. Moi
    July 3, 2022 at 4:48 am — Reply

    You point out a lot of sad truths about America’s legacy, our treatment of indigenous/first nation peoples, and the problems currently facing our country.

    Though there is a lot to be proud of when you think of America, there is a lot that should cause us embarrassment, shame, and even horror.

    If we are ever to be a beacon on the hill, we need to face these facts.

    But there is also much to celebrate. To wit, your post, Jake. And the good people, now and then, who have stood for what they believe in and stood with those who have been silenced.

    A celebration can be a time to rejoice, while also being a time to rally for change. All human edifices are, by so being, fraught with the problems that humans bring to this planet. But problems can also inspire solutions, and often have.

    America is a complicated experiment, like many other nations. I appreciate being born here. But I also recognize that being born here is not a free ride or pass. Countless others, also born here, have not had what the chances I have had. So, humbly, I hope that I add to this complex experiment in a positive way, making the reason to celebrate more obvious, while also making the reasons to reflect, react, and (yes!) rebel more obvious.

    Thanks, Jake. A well-penned reminder that some might forget amongst the BBQs and firecrackers.

  2. July 3, 2022 at 1:48 pm — Reply

    Best thing to do would be to burn a flag. Seriously, it’s a fully legal right granted to all citizens (for now):

    Nothing could be more patriotic… except for centrist Dem actually FIGHTING BACK against openly-evil Republicans.

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