Despite COVID-19, rising racial tensions, an economy in the tank, and some of the worst political polarization the country has seen since the Civil War, Americans managed to put all that aside last week for our favorite pastime: setting stuff on fire and drinking.
I mean — to be fair, parts of the country have been setting stuff on fire for a solid two months now, but Independence Day is a day where we all get to join in that hallowed tradition, much to the chagrin of pets everywhere, who spent most of the day huddled under beds and in bathtubs, swaddled in thunder blankets and whimpering.
It says something that our Independence Day celebrations are marked every single year by multiple people being either wounded or killed by stray gunfire from people just randomly firing rifles in the air, and what it says about us is that we’re pretty awesome. The fact that those people probably don’t have any kind of health insurance just makes things even more awesome.
It’s a contest to see who can dress the tackiest, drink the most, shoot the loudest, awesomest fireworks, and stack the most weird toppings on their burger. The only losers are our hearts, livers, and dignity, but what have they ever really done for us anyway?
Plus, the Fourth of July is rather like election year in the sense that it’s one of the only times that people pretend to care about history. They stare back in time and go, “Yeah, I think Independence Day is when they dumped the tea in the harbor up in Boston? Or maybe that’s where the guy rode the horse?”
Seriously, it’s quite amazing the amount of history and culture that gets shoehorned into a single day when it’s not even mentioned for the rest of the year. Every Fourth of July it rises up out of the fog of modernity like the ghosts of the Founding Fathers rising from their graves. Just like fathers across the globe, if they did come out of their graves, they’d probably shake their heads and tell us how disappointed they are in us, but who cares? Let’s light some more bottle rockets.
To an outside observer, it’s a little hard to pin down what, exactly, Fourth of July is celebrating. If it were about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, one would think we’d have re-enactments of that signing with people dressed up as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. But we don’t. If we were celebrating the country as a whole, well — we probably wouldn’t be considering that the country is basically split into two halves that can’t stand one another.
And this is in no way saying that Americans don’t have anything to celebrate. We do. See above, where I said we’re awesome.
This year, though, I got so many questions from people outside the country about why we do the things we do – and I couldn’t answer them. For the first time in my life, I looked at my favorite holiday and realized that I had no idea where the traditions came from or why they are the way they are — and it’s bothered me ever since.
Anyway, pass the whiskey, I guess.