“Independence Day” is the also the Fucking Worst.

by kara on July 4, 2019

When other kids were dressing their ponies up in Wizard of Oz or Star Wars costumes, I was convincing my friend CarolAnne (front) that colonial maidens leading Uncle Sam was a gold medal idea (it wasn’t).

I was a bicentennial kid, growing up in the 1970’s, naively embracing all things Olde and patriotic. I chose ridiculously nerdy bicentennial iron-ons for my shirts, and was obsessed Ben Franklin was my hero. We saw a stage production of “1776” at the bicentennial celebration in Philadelphia where I grew up, and became obsessed with the movie version, taking place in the “foul, fetid, fuming, foggy” city of Philadelphia. The city’s bicentennial celebration was naturally was ruined by a corrupt Republican Mayor.

I showed up at camp with this asinine shirt

I whined and begged to visit Colonial Williamsburg as a nine year old, and my mom and Mrs Goldberg her packed their 4 daughters into the Goldberg’s woody station wagon and off ye all went in in the time machine.

I immersed myself in the elitist and static images centered on Colonial Revival aesthetics: harpsichords, revolutionary garb and pewter, hoops and fifes, modcaps and tri-corner hats. We had zero interest in the neighboring Busch Gardens. “What was interesting about that”, Kristen, Meryl and Karen and I all wondered, as we sat under our bonnets and wolfed down peanut butter pie.

As students of progressive education, we knew that the silk pants patriots, bonneted demo hosts and african american laborer were depicting a more democratic and egalitarian version of history, hand craftsmanship, good taste, and patriotism, and that the Declaration was still little more than a casserole of Enlightenment tropes dumped over the money grudges of the One Percent. Still….what’s not awesome about colonial re-enactors?

This was the height of the bicentennial fervor and also a very different America. We took more vacations. We took regular museum trips. We were taught more history in schools. We had very limited TV time and no video games in the home, no iPhones to distract us and reduce our attention span to nanoseconds. We were way more patriotic in a way and more aware of history. The old Cold War focus on patriotism, individualism and celebratory history eventually gave way to the new constructionist, social history. People now forego Colonial Williamsburg for Disney world and it can barely stay afloat. Most appallingly, children complain about taking vacations at all, as their gaming devices are more stimulating to their shrinking reptiles brains than anything this worn out old country could conjure up.

I used to love Independence Day. I would organize my siblings and cousins into humiliating Williamsburg-style parades around the cul de sac. We would march around with little American flags that were then ceremoniously arranged around our front yard cherry tree. Now, I know that Independence Day is actually the worst of America’s joyless national celebrations. It’s a hot summer slog for people to act predictably stupid and nobody has the decency to Opt Out. From Bushwick to Silver Lake, from Columbus to King of Prussia, the whole nation of bores wrap themselves in Old Glory in another futile attempt to out-patriot their enemies. The rich make sure to be extra patriotic, slathering themselves in layers of Old Glory as they transfer ever bigger chunks of their massive wealth to offshore tax havens.

The modern Independence Day is a grudge match, with the cable news channels in their zero-sum arms race to coat the entire screen with billowing flag graphics. Fourth of July sects seize this annual opportunity to wrap their various banal causes in a suffocating Old Glory blanket. In full moronic masturbation mode, they roll out a torrent of straight-faced utter bullshit the likes of which you’ll never see outside of a Trump Nazi rally at a half-filled sports arena. Every industry and every banal cause will be draped in the Stars and Stripes, because since 9/11 it is basically a crime against humanity to be unpatriotic.

Flags flutter self-righteously from every floundering storefront and every million-dollar condo unit that sprang forth from a one-story bungalow, from lamp post to street light, and every other old reminder our worn out old power grid. Reliably Republican towns will dress up their fading Main Streets for an annual ritual aping Disney movies of yore with parades and fireworks, minus the fun. Everyday patriots will bivouac curbside with their monstrous ice chests and cheer wildly for the overbearing military presence, which will someday suck their teenage sons away. And in the inner-ring suburbs where the Spanish speakers, Armenian speakers, Afghani speakers, or other immigrants have built new lives, you’ll also see American flags. They must prove to their Real American neighbors that they are no threat at all, because they are also good old hard-working American Families trying to do the right thing, using Capitalism and Freedom.

Everyone celebrating the July Fourth is an idiot. Never have so many dopes rallied ’round the grand old flag. They’ve all learned – libertarian and labor unionist, anti vaxer and white supremacist, orthodontist and marijuana addict – that if you just stand before a giant flag like General fckng Patton, you can basically get away with anything. Republicans have always known this. When the country was visibly coming apart at the seams, in the crushing horror of the early 1980s, Ronald Reagan’s handlers just crapped out a nauseating commercial, “It’s Morning In America.” Between that and picking a new unemployment metric that would “prove” half as many jobless, the Reagan Revolution proved you can do absolutely anything in this country of dummies by simply saying things are different now. And such self-serving flag waving in the service of your specific cause – this Hatetriotism – is even skeevier than the mattress stores and car lots, which openly exist to sell you something.

The actual day – Fourth of July – meant nothing to the authors of the Declaration. It’s now widely known that the document was actually signed in August, when the last of a bloated group of landed gentry and elite slaveholders finished signing some rambling pile of grandiosity authored by Thomas Jefferson and in another twenty years or so, thanks to the French finally winning a war somewhere, America the Beautiful was born.

Along with the U.S. Constitution and the Bible, the Declaration has been the subject of more infantile modern-day nationalistic nonsense than all the rest of the world’s legal structures combined. Today’s Independence Day DC is a highly mockable authoritarian display that will make flyover country white supremacists’ dicks hard for a minute, but will be otherwise ignored by all good patriotic. In another hundred years, the Fourth of July will be as emotionally vacuous and sparsely celebrated as May Day is now.

How do you justify celebrating our “Independence” with meats and mattresses after seeing the images of the border camps? Of the teeming human beings in overcrowded, standing room only, cells began pressing notes against the windows pleading for help? Of the 2,669 children held in baby jails? Weirdly, most Americans will still manage to find it in their hearts to come together in celebration of all our many freedoms, among them the freedom to drink outside during daylight hours, fish tallboys out of an Igloo, guzzle Chardonnay on picnic blankets or in the privacy of your own home; We are a diverse nation. Then, after the sun mercifully sets on the scorched earth, do we head home and settle in with a little readup of Thomas Paine or to rewatch 1776? No, we must reckon with the stupid fireworks, an integral part of the day’s celebration since 1777, when the loud, meaningless nonsense befouled the skies above Boston and Philadelphia.

I have no problem with the banned stuff my Uncle Carl used to confiscate at the precinct and bring over, anything that one might blow our fingers off in our backyard. Those are fun! Doing reckless stuff in the backyard with your cousins is an important element of American folk culture. It’s the ginormous, corporate fireworks displays that I find appalling, an exercise in pomposity, aggression, triumphalism, and hubris, showing off our military might by ornamenting the night sky beyond the powers of God himself. Imperialist and, hegemonic, the popularity of fireworks displays as populist entertainment does not say much for the populace. And like other holiday rituals, they have blinded us to whatever the fuck we think we are celebrating.

Who is donating the White Houses’ fireworks? Oh, nobody special. Just some guy who ended up testifying in a public corruption trial about his role in purchasing $75,000 worth of football tickets that a friend of a friend just happened to give to a mayor, gratis. Still, nobody could prove he was involved in a scheme to pay off a government official.

Our country was founded on a radical premise: that all men are created equal. In the 1800s, then, the “Fourth of July” wasn’t just a day to celebrate “liberty.” It was also a time to demand it. Start with black Americans, who used the occasion to underscore the contradiction between the country’s principles and practices. “What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?” asked abolitionist Frederick Douglass, in his famous address in Rochester, NY, on July 4, 1852.

“To (the slave), your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.”

How do we “celebrate” our Independence when, in 2019, we have to have an organization called “Black Lives Matter”?

After 1776, would take another 80 years for Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to still not deliver complete freedom to enslaved Africans — at least not the freedom white people in the country enjoyed and continue to enjoy. Americans still aren’t free. SOME Americans experience fair treatment from our justice system. SOME Americans experience boundless employment opportunity. SOME Americans experience guaranteed social mobility. To say that this is a free country is disingenuous and ridiculous. It is not a free country, and therefore we don’t deserve to celebrate freedom. I have watched our society has grown steadily less equal since the 1970s. How can a country dedicated to the principles of the Declaration of Independence abide by that?

In an 1854 Fourth of July address, abolitionist Wendell Phillips noted that the Founding Fathers had declared independence for some Americans, but not for others:

“It becomes us to take one step further than they dared to take:.

The kind of ignorant white trash who just lerv Donald Tump are still unhappy, still poor, still in debt, their jobs long ago shipped overseas, and their main recreation is having their resentments fulfilled and failed by watching Fox News, and they will still celebrate their Independence Day.

I can’t set aside – even for one day – the fact that the president of American is the Platonic Ideal of a senile buffoon who has both shaped, and helped legitimate and enshrine, a metastasizing array of virulent anti-democratic forces in American politics that will forever damn this nation and its people. And that half this cursed nation will continue to support a political party mostly comprised of sadists, pedophiles and rapists.

So go ahead and eat and drink and make merry, I won’t be joining you. A holiday that used to commemorate our ongoing quest for freedom has become a banal exercise in gluttony and self-congratulation. This is the worst July fourth since Mayor Rizzo ruined Philadelphia’s Bicentennial.

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