This 4th of July Celebrate Yourself, Not America

And other answers to questions you didn’t ask

Image: Chad Sparkes

“I don’t really feel like celebrating America this year. What should I do this 4th of July?” — Not Patriotic Pat

No one ever said being an American was easy. And, perhaps, with some of our mythology stripped away by the current Administration, we can start to see what we truly are in this moment. For so long we’ve glanced over our own problems as a nation. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the idea that we’re a great country filled with great people. We definitely can be that kind of country. Even if we’re falling short of the promise at the moment.

For even if we never individually desired to become “The Ugly American” we certainly are collectively that just now. Elections do have consequences and one consequence of this last one is that we’ve seen how the American Electoral Sausage gets made. With hideous amounts of bluster, racism, sexism, hook and crook. Isn’t it better to see the gears of our democracy at their most gummed-up, to help you appreciate when some of our systems do function? The Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal have done Pulitzer-worthy work. The court system seems to be rolling along, even if Congress seems paralyzed by a dysfunctional Executive Branch. We haven’t blown up the Earth yet. So far, so good.

As amusing as it might be to imagine that the 25th Amendment might save us from this Trump Presidency, you’d have to reasonably expect lots of people who will never act responsibly to suddenly wish to do so. The same people who want to take health care away from poor people so that rich people can get a massive tax cut do not seem well-suited for the role of “adults in the room.” Trump is noxious. So are his followers. Better to let them be whittled down to squeaking gerbils over years of unabated do-nothing nonsense. There is no amendment to the Constitution to just let time do what it will. Just let it happen. With a little luck, the world won’t be blown up in the process.

But the USA has never been that great of a place. It started off pretty great. Except for slavery. At least it sounded pretty great on paper. But we’ve failed over and over again to live up to our collective promise. We’ve always talked a good game. And we’re great at joining World Wars toward the end. And we do a pretty good job apologizing for the shit we do afterwards. But the greatness of America has been mostly imagined. If you say you are great enough, if you win enough wars in the last year, if start to believe your own hype, you too can be “the greatest nation in the world.” Offering health care to all your citizens is not required.

This 4th of July isn’t about the USA, it’s about you. How are you doing? You’ve been through a lot this year with the election and the election results and now morons everywhere feeling empowered. This too shall pass. But right now, you deserve a day. Americans everywhere are generally decent people who imagine themselves to be fair-minded. They deserve a holiday for putting up with a year’s-worth of bullshit. And so do you.

Do not celebrate America this 4th of July. Celebrate Americans. They’re an optimistic and hopeful bunch who have their hearts in the right place even sometimes when they’re being sexist and racist. The shine may be off our democratic experiment with representational government. Big businesses and the rich have unfair sway into all of our systems. We may be 50 years past the point where we should have had another revolution, but for some reason we’re all still futilely trying to live with one another. And that seems like a cause for celebration! We’re too chicken to live apart. If there was a manifest destiny, it has turned into an inertia. We’re all stuck with each other. And that seems reason enough to celebrate. Unless you live in New Jersey, like me, where we’re even more fucked up than the rest of the country. Our state government is shut down for no good reason, and all the state beaches are closed! USA! USA!

As we celebrate this 4th of July, remember the sacrifices that got us to this point. We have basically given away all semblance of privacy because we’re scared of sporadic and not-very-successful terrorist attacks. We’ve abandoned our duty to vote because we know there are no real choices that will afford us lasting change. We hang on tightly to political parties who will argue both sides of an argument whenever it suits them. We underfund education, have trashed the planet and are greedy as fuck. Better luck next year.

Most importantly, don’t kill yourself with fireworks this 4th of July. That’s never a good look.

Jim Behrle lives in Jersey City, NJ and works at a bookstore.