The Fourth of July– Independence Day… The year of George Bush’s Lord, 2008. Does it mean anything anymore?
Aside from whatever Big Bash Savings at the car dealers, or the mattress store or Freedom Bucks or some such nonsense at Burger King. (This weekend only, make your diabetes and heart disease twice as bad–get four grease-burgers for the price of one!!!)– Aside from all that, who really knows or cares about the actual significance of The Fourth of July.
You get a long weekend, true– That’s no small thing in life where people work more and make less than they have for 50 years– so, no sniffing at that from somebody like me who hasn’t had a 9-5 job for 10 years…
And also you exercise your right as a free American citizen to eat too much crap at a picnic?get sunburn and poison ivy and maybe a couple of bee stings, if you’re really lucky…
And, again, don?t forget there are incredible, once in a lifetime!!! (A flea’s lifetime) deals at the Honda showroom or some big-ticket appliance warehouse. Spend that stimulus check?everybody knows its not enough to really help anyone?s financial situation anyway, so why not use it for a weekend at a casino or as down-payment on an All Terrain Vehicle that will destroy what little is left of the woods or desert (You’re never going to pay the fucking thing off anyway!)
I can’t connect, (no matter how hard I tax my old, addled brain), a 30% discount on a flat-screen TV and the idea, (the vision) of a dead American lying in a New England woods 230 years ago? bayoneted in the gut by some Hessian mercenary.
Once again, as with so many things I contemplate these days, I feel a generational gap…
I remember the Fourth of July when I was a kid growing up in the late fourties and fifties. Sure, there were car sales and over-the-top beer-sodden picnics. But there was also a feeling of what the celebration was truly about.
I grew up with men who had fought in World War 2; men who had endured things I could never imagine for the sake of Freedom.
I guess its simple-minded to say such a thing– It certainly looks simple-minded when I read it back off the page here.
But, truly, in the those days, American history (minus of course, the holocaust the country committed against Indians and Black people), was a major subject in school? fading already, yes, against math and science (it was the era of The Bomb and Sputniks, etc.) But still, the story of our Revolution against the British Monarchy was a very big deal. Almost as if it had happened not too long before.
I?m certain this feeling was re-enforced by the then recent years at war against Hitler and against the Japanese. To see even the newsreel footage, let alone hear the stories from the men in my neighborhood, or read the books about the war, made you feel a direct connection between what the country had just gone through and what the original war for Independence was about. (Again, this was reserved almost exclusively for white people.. But I when I was 8 or 12 or even 15 years old, I had yet to learn that).
The first time I ever heard about the real history of our country was in my junior year in high school when I had a young black female history teacher. She made sure we were properly educated, and I never saw American the same way since then.
No coincidence that this teacher didn’t last more than two terms at my high school…
America has become such a trivial, venal, bloated and decayed culture that holidays, both religious and secular, are almost completely devoid of meaning.
Its been decades now that people have been complaining about Christmas being just another excuse for absurd consumption and greed; canceling out entirely, course, one of the original messages inherent in the religion and the life and words of its originator (Not Paul, Jesus).
Same goes for Independence Day. The very idea of America celebrating its Independence from a foreign Imperial military power is somehow obscene?given the war in Vietnam and the invasion of Iraq.
Independence Day now has nothing to celebrate but deals on TV’s and cheap burgers for the weekend… Its really a day, at the very best, to contemplate, in silent repentance?what this country has doing to world for a long time now.
And it?s not just the last 40 or so years? Our behavior towards millions of our own citizens; the slavery, the violence, and the assault on people in every part of the world; the greed, the support of dictators and murderers; the bullying, inexcusable use of our military force? It makes the Fourth of July a time, almost, for shame… For stopping completely and thinking about what our original Revolution was about and who we once imagined ourselves to be long ago; and what we were during World War 2?one of the few times in the last several decades this country has committed all its power, resources and lives to fighting for freedom from tyranny.
Now, alas, WE are the tyrants and the world fears us and hates us.
When we think of Independence day, we might better think of how a good part of the world can win its independence from our weapons and our corporations, rather than stand up all fake weepy-eyed during the seventh-inning stretch at Yankee Stadium and listen to some dead dowager sing God Bless America… God HELP America.
I was raised by a generation who fought the Nazi’s and taught history by people who were one generation removed from immigrants from rotten old Europe… I heard my grandmother talking about running for her life from the Czar’s Cossacks? and later, sitting with her when she was grim and melancholy about the relatives she?d lost in the holocaust.
I heard my teachers and my neighbors talk about the things they had heard, seen and done in France and Germany and the Pacific…
It was a genuine education.
Sure, we have the right, by virtue of having fought for our freedom, to eat a lot of barbecued shit at a state park, and buy a totally unnecessary extra cell-phone with the newest brain-frying features.
And I still have the right, until the Government takes it away, to voice all this publicly? That counts for something.
Ah well, enough fulminating?
Happy Fourth of July. Lets go see the fireworks in the local park or down by the pier. It might even be a better show than Baghdad exploding on CNN.
– Mike Feder (New York City – July 3, 2008)