July 6, 2007

Independent Party Crashing

No celebration ought to be about forcing other people to celebrate. Which is why I definitely support this fellow’s right not to party.

The gentleman writes:

The issue of whether African Americans should celebrate the 4th of July is one of those eternal questions that is often asked this time of year but never receives a valid answer. Why do black folks feel obligated to dress up in red white and blue top hats and sing the Star Spangled Banner when our ancestors were in the field picking cotton while the colonists were getting their party on ?

To summarize my understanding of Min. Scott’s post, he feels he has a right not to celebrate the 4th (this I would agree with). He feels he will be persecuted for not celebrating (this I can’t speak to; perhaps his neighbors are more nosey than mine). But it’s his reasons for not celebrating the 4th and what they imply about why other people celebrate the 4th that I take issue with.

He cites the loss of freedoms we’ve recently suffered. He cites slavery which existed at the time of the signing of the Declaration. He cites ongoing civil rights inequities.

I’m not known as a brainless flag-waver. However, I believe I am patriotic in the sense that I am happy to be living in the USA and feel an obligation to contribute to the success of the country.

When I think about Independence Day, I don’t think about where my ancestors were when the Declaration of Independence was signed. Why not? Because my love for my country has nothing to do with my ancestors.

Celebrating the independence of the United States of America is a much simpler decision. If you like the country, if you find something worthy of celebration here, then you can celebrate the country’s independence because this was a step toward today’s United States of America. I’m not talking about our government, by the way. While it is meant to be a government of the people, there is a hell of a lot more to this country than its government.

If you live in the USA but you don’t like the country, I can understand not celebrating the fourth. It just seems that simple: you like the country, you celebrate. You don’t then you don’t.

While I respect someone’s choice to eschew celebrating Independence Day, I am baffled by some of the reasons I have seen.

Posted by James at July 6, 2007 8:47 AM
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In 1776, my ancestors were still in France and Scotland, doing what French and Scottish people do. (Insert jokes about snails, frogs, haggis, scotch, cowardice, extreme thrift, kissing, and sex with sheep here.) I'm still grateful to have the day off!

Posted by: Julie at July 6, 2007 10:56 AM

I dunno... I "get" it, and I rather think he's right. It's not a question of where you were or where your ancestors were, specifically. It's more an issue that we're celebrating freedom and independence of the US that we've assigned to 4 July 1776. And blacks in the US were not independent and free on that day, by any means, nor were they so any time soon thereafter.

I think that's a valid argument. Saying that it's not is rather like saying that American Indians should just get off their collective high horse and join the rest of us in celebrating the "discovery" of America by Columbus.

Posted by: Barry Leiba at July 6, 2007 11:29 AM

Addendum to the above: While I think his is a valid reason not to celebrate, I think it's a personal choice. There certainly are lots of African-Americans who happily choose to celebrate Independence Day, simply as a symbolic day for the country. That's fine too, of course. I think both approaches are valid.

Posted by: Barry Leiba at July 6, 2007 11:33 AM

I still don't.

I think there are two big problems with your analogy regarding what I'm saying. The first is that I'm not telling anyone to get off any horse to celebrate anything. In fact, I specifically supported his right not to celebrate. My point was that I either don't agree with or don't understand his reasoning.

The second problem with your analogy is that there are relevant differences between what July 4 represents people and what Columbus Day represents to the descendants of pre-Coulmbian inhabitants.

However, I find another part of your explanation makes a lot of sense. It being a personal choice. But what is it a personal choice of -- that would be my question.

My view that it's a personal choice of whether you celebrate the country or not.

Posted by: James at July 6, 2007 12:02 PM

Oops - that was "I still don't understand."

In any case, to finish the thought: I understand if history has soured him on the country. I don't think I would understand if he said "I love the country but refuse to celebrate the 4th."

Posted by: James at July 6, 2007 12:09 PM

I don't understand it either. If he'd said "I'm not going to celebrate because I don't feel very patriotic/free/whatever lately," I'd understand. This is different.

Independence Day is about independence from England and the birth of a new nation. Obviously a new nation isn't perfect, and there were a lot of hard lessons to be learned after that (many of them still in progress).

The Declaration of Independence also described some ideals of personal independence and freedom, but I've never thought of Independence Day as celebrating that. Anyway, I can't even live up to my own ideals - so I'm not going to diss the 4th of July simply because we weren't (and still aren't) there yet. That's not to say that I wouldn't like to see a little more effort in that area.

Another thing I'd like to see (I won't hold my breath) would be a Declaration of Trade/Manufacturing Independence from China. But that's a rant for another day.

Posted by: julie at July 6, 2007 12:40 PM

Barry, you're comparing celebrating "independence from the English government, and from a despotic and unstable ruler called George" to celebrating the discovery of the Americas by the Europeans, which led to despotic and unstable rule. Those seem like opposites to me.

This guy James is referring to doesn't want to celebrate the independence of this country that he lives in because his ancestors weren't free when independence happened, over 200 years ago. Well I guess I won't celebrate either, because my grandfather came over from England, and therefore 1/4 of my ancestors were on the losing side, and that still hurts? Women weren't particularly free, but only half my ancestors were women, so should I celebrate or not? Half your ancestors were women, too. Should we not celebrate anything prior to suffrage?

I'm not Indian, can I not celebrate Gandhi's birthday? I'm not Black, can I not celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday? Or can I celebrate the holidays that mean something to me, because as a human being, I appreciate any struggle for freedom?

This guy can celebrate whatever he wants for whatever reason, but that doesn't mean his reasons make any sense, or that anybody here has clarified them.

Posted by: Maggie at July 6, 2007 12:55 PM

Well, to take the historical view out of it, one could just as easily say it's hard to
celebrate independence and freedom in a country whose leaders are right now rather happy to curtail both.

But that's the beauty of America--you can have your opinion, whether others agree or not.

Posted by: Patti M. at July 6, 2007 1:58 PM

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