Tuesday, July 3, 2018

How to Celebrate the Fourth When You're Not Exactly 'Proud to Be an American'

Typically, the Fourth of July signifies a day off of work and a fireworks show. But when the classic lyrics to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” don’t come out quite as easily as they would have a handful of years ago, how should we celebrate the Fourth of July? “I’m proud to be an American / where at least I know I’m free” may ring true for me personally, but this year especially, it calls to mind the privileges I’ve had that some others haven’t been awarded.

While immigrants are being taken from their families at the border, I begin to question why our American policy would oppress others’ human rights. Looking inward to how America treats its own can be painful, too, when we recognize the unfair treatment of minorities by police, the education system and other institutions. I want to celebrate our country and its progress, and at the same time, we need a reckoning, calling to light the progress that still needs to happen. But the Fourth of July is going to arrive with a flurry of red, white and blue whether or not we’re looking forward to the occasion. Here are a few ideas for celebrating your Fourth of July when you don’t necessarily feel 100% proud to be an American.

Start Small
We live in a climate where political opinions are like a line in the sand — it feels heavy to walk to the other side and have a conversation with a friend or even an acquaintance who may think differently than we do. Start small, by sharing your voice with these individuals. Sure, it’s more comfortable to avoid certain conversations, but it is so necessary to call out intolerant ideas when we see them in people we know. Make the conversation about values, not political parties, and speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Call or Write a Representative
You can text Resistbot to write a letter to your representatives in two minutes or less. If you have more time, consider calling and leaving a message with the representative’s office. When there are city or state elections, vote to make your voice heard. Throughout the year, keep up with local and national news, and contact your elected officials when you see something you disagree with.

Thank Government Workers
When the news feels heavy, look to the things that are going correctly. For example, USPS employees are federal workers who do necessary, often overlooked, work to help our world keep turning. A simple “thank you” goes a long way, or you can leave your mail person a cold bottle of water during these hot summer months. Think outside the box to find a government worker who improves your daily life, and show them your appreciation.

Spend Time with Your People
Lots of Americans do have the Fourth of July off as a national holiday. If you’re one of these people, soak it up and spend time with your community. Hang out, talk about how we can improve America, or talk about the latest wellness craze. Integrating our opinions into conversation is a must to engage in real relationships with the people we call friends and family. This rings true no matter the day.

Fireworks! 💥
On the Fourth of July, fireworks have been set off since 1777. It’s an Independence Day tradition, symbolizing “the rocket’s red glare” that indicated our separation from Great Britain in 1776. While we still have a way to go, choose to do your part to ignite change, and then focus on the positive. If you have the opportunity, buy fireworks from a local stand to support small business, have a popsicle, and consider the progress we’ve made. As Americans, we have the privilege to take actionable steps to make a difference, and that is something to take advantage of — and celebrate.

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