Friday, July 3, 2015

Why the 4th of July Makes Me Crazy

Disclaimer: This is a reality check post. If you'd like to stay in your lil' bubble of red, white, and blue dollar store decorations and WalMart stars and stripes cupcakes that is your prerogative. I don't fault your for it. Live your life and be free. But for those of you who can stick with me and expand your perspective, I promise to end this post on a happy note and maybe, hopefully, leave you inspired.

4th of July. What are the top 3 things that pop into your head when you think about Independence Day? BBQ? The American flag? Parades? Swimming and sunblock? I think of those things, too. And I always picture little redcoats running toward the Atlantic with American soldiers whooping and hollering behind them like banshees. And if I'm feeling particularly patriotic, I'll occasionally think of my fellow men and women in arms who might get a celebratory non-alcoholic beer when they return from patrol.


But if there's one thing I tend to appreciate with every fiber of my being, one thing I never forget to consider on holidays like this, it's that I live in a country that allows me to say what I want, eat what I want, love who I want, and yes, be an idiot whenever the heck I want. I'm thankful. But not everyone is.

The First Reason Why the 4th of July Makes Me Crazy:
Anti-American complainers sittin' around eating hamburgers

Yes, America has some pretty terrible flaws. Yep, we ain't perfect, as Yahoo commentors and all other "I hate America" people tend to remind us every chance they get. But do you wake up every morning and wonder if today is the day your home is going to be razed to the ground? Do you lose family members as they make their way to church? Do you worry your baby girl will be mutilated because she is female? Do you struggle to get to the grocery store without getting blown up?

Reality check, people. We don't live in this kind of fear each day. We have the privilege to worry about things like equal rights, organic food, and global warming. We have the privilege to protest, donate to charities, and run for special causes. We have the privilege to act on behalf of what we think is right and just and moral and good. We have the privilege to live here.

And why do we have this privilege? Well, because we have the best goshdamn military this world has ever seen. We have men and women who fight, and train, and learn, and conduct covert missions, and disarm, and negotiate, and yes, kill those who want our freedom dead. We have a group of people who dedicate themselves to protecting your right to say what you want, eat what you want, love what you want, and yes, be an idiot whenever the heck you want. And these people ask nothing of you. Matter of fact, from my experience, they don't even live in the same world as you. They run in the background of your life, rarely considered, occasionally honored through embarrassing parades and assemblies, but infrequently thought of when you're planning BBQs and fireworks displays and camping trips. And that's ok, you know. Most of the servicemen and women I know don't want to be acknowledged on the daily show. They don't want fame and fortune and to be called "heroes." You know what most of them want? Peace. They want peace, people. And the love they fought to protect. And maybe a little bit of respect for mastering something you are privileged to never know anything about.

The Second Reason Why the 4th of July Makes Me Crazy:
Money, money, money, money

You know what is the complete opposite of the peace, love, and respect I mentioned above? Half-price mattresses. Furniture blowouts. Annual 4th of July sales.

A soldier doesn't risk her life so another guy can get rich.

How about we stop commercializing and monetizing our patriotism. How about we make our patriotic holidays less about flag-covered paper plates and more about respecting the freedom we've been given. A discounted bedroom set doesn't do anyone any good. You know what does?

Spending money on wounded service members: http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/

Or homeless veterans: http://www.supporthomelessveterans.org

Or this homeless Marine who is also a musical genius: http://www.gofundme.com/yc3p2e6

And it's not all about the money.  Which leads me to the third reason the 4th of July makes me crazy. Lemmie explain.

The Third Reason Why the 4th of July Makes Me Crazy:
Our freedom isn't free, but respect and courtesy doesn't cost you a dime

Those soldiers who fought overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan? Well, most of them experienced some pretty loud booms, occasionally accompanied (post ear-ringing) by the screams of their fallen battle buddies. This is not an easy holiday for them. I'm a firsthand witness to what happens to a solider during fireworks season. It's not in any way pretty. So while it's unrealistic to think fireworks should be limited to large-scale events, try to be considerate. If you know you've got a veteran in your hood, especially a veteran of our current fight in the middle east where bombs are more common than guns, consider lighting off something with a little less firepower. Those homemade cannons you shoot off in your backyard might inadvertently send your neighbor straight back to Iraq. What a way to show respect for all she or he did.

And speaking of fireworks, how many of you know what those booms are all about? Any of you tell your kids what fireworks represent? How about saturating those precious little minds with a bit of history and reference before they head out to the show this weekend? Beautiful display, yes. But what does it represent? Can you feel it? Can they?

The 4th of July is a day of celebration for our freedom - a freedom so many seem to forget comes at a hefty price. It doesn't take much to transform a day that's become a self-absorbed marketing ploy into a day worthy of the sacrifices our soldiers made. If you do nothing else to show respect to the real reason behind our independence, at the very least ensure your day is filled with love and peace. There's no better way to honor and respect those who died....and those who still live.

Happy Independence Day, America. May you forever be the land of the free, home of the brave.
Jen


9 comments:

  1. I am feeling totally indifferent to the 4th of July as it is currently celebrated. Love this. Thank you for writing it.

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    1. Thank you Jennifer and thank you for stopping by! I get pretty downhearted with most holiday "traditions" (aka - buy more stuff) these days and our patriotic holidays more than deserve to be about those who serve! Appreciate your appreciation :)

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  2. The Star Spangled Banner still brings tears to my eyes!
    Who can not be moved by these words and the vision they conjure up:

    "And the rocket's red glare, the bomb bursting in air,
    Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,"

    Awesome!

    As far as celebrating Independence Day... since we live in a resort community (Lake Tahoe, CA), we actually hide out until all the crazy celebrator's leave town. But, come dusk, we'll be able to hear those 'bombs bursting in air"....
    Love our freedom.

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    1. YES! That's it, Deanne! You feel it when you watch fireworks, don't you!?! And I always wondered how people who actually live in tourist spots deal with the holidays - I can imagine it gets pretty insane! I would batten down the hatches, too! I hope you enjoy your weekend and thank you so much for stopping by and sharing the meaning behind fireworks shows!! :)

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  3. I think there's a lot of wisdom in this post. Personally, I feel more 'home' in SE Asia than I do in America itself, but I never, ever forget the immense privileges I have through nothing I did, but just because I was born there and have an American passport. My very job and livelihood is based on the fact that I'm a native speaker of American English.
    I've lived in countries that lack a lot of the freedoms America has--and that's been enough to make me value those freedoms all the more.

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    1. Thank you Rachel - I think those who've actually experienced other cultures and countries have a bit more perspective when it comes to America! We ain't perfect (far from it), but my kids are safe here, and there's not a day that goes by that I am not grateful for that.

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  4. I love the 4th of July and what it represents. I would love to tell our kids about fireworks, but I feel they are a bit too young to understand war and killing yet. We are very lucky to live in this country and I hope more STOP complaining and start appreciating what we have before we lose more personal freedoms. Sorry you don't love the holiday, hope you had a great weekend anyways!!

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    1. I love the holiday (this entire post was a shoutout to how much I appreciate our freedom) - I don't love the people who misrepresent what it is all about! Explaining fireworks to kids doesn't need to be about killing - c'mon, you're way more creative than that! I've read your blog posts haha! There is nothing wrong with explaining our nation's history and where we've come from. As a previous commenter so wonderfully put it, reciting our nation's anthem is all that's needed to explain why we have fireworks in the first place. And yes, I completely agree with you, a bit more gratuity and a little less "beer and BBQ is what the 4th of July means" would be awesome....especially to those who serve.

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  5. Great post!

    I always think of our soldiers. I wish others would as well.

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