Born on the Fourth of July

I love the Fourth of July. Not ironically, not in some post modern way, not making a joke. I love it exactly for what it is. The other day i was discussing plans for the Fourth of July with a non-American. They asked if Americans really celebrate July 4th. I believe there are four distinct July 4th groups.

  1. Those who don’t care and don’t celebrate
  2. Those who think the United States sucks (for different reasons) and don’t celebrate it
  3. Those who love July 4th (me)
  4. Those who love July 4th but can’t reconcile their feelings for their country without feeling like they are complicit in its atrocities/tragedies so they celebrate it ironically (the worst kind)

The first two don’t bother me much, although the second has some things in common with the fourth, which is why i decided to write this.

I’m not against criticizing the very obvious abuses that this country has committed. In fact, i criticize it every single day of the year. But i also seek to criticize how we are critical of the United States, and how it unfortunately supports the very same abuses you are speaking against. When your narrative of the United States can only be seen as a critique of White Power, and you choose to not celebrate the Fourth of July because you are protesting the history of terror that has come from white power, you are simply saying that our (all US citizens) Independence Day is only a day that should matter in the context of white people. And dats racist.

I’m a son of immigrant parents, and i am an American. I am a Cuban-American. I am a Cuban/Afrocuban-American. I am white, black, hispanic. When my parents became citizens, all that is me, and all that is them, became part of the American culture. We have a history of racism in the United States: One Drop Rules, Pencil Tests, 3/5th compromise. I see these tragedies, and i see that as a reason to celebrate. Independence Day celebrates revolution, and revolution against overwhelming odds and unstoppable forces. The United Stated didn’t stop fighting the moment some dudes signed the Declaration of Independence, the United States is defined by fighting. Every struggle, every small victory, every small step is the unflinching unrelenting force of the true spirit of all of the people in the United States.

Independence from Tyranny is even more important to recognize today as an ongoing process, and not some event that occurred hundreds of years ago. We are still fighting remnants of the civil war, we are still fighting against the KKK, we are still fighting against corrupt land-owners and the abuses of undocumented workers. I refuse to believe that the Fourth of July belongs more to the KKK, the GOP, the NRA, the party of the old, the party of false traditional values, than to black, brown, asian, hispanic, native peoples who are still fighting for their independence.

When Bree Newsome pulled down the confederate flag, that was the spirit of 1776. When gay marriage passed this past week, that was the spirit of 1776. When our President, a black man, who everyone hailed as the usher of post-racial America sings Amazing Grace at the funeral of another victim of racial hatred, that was the spirit of 1776. We fight, we die, we keep fighting, things get slightly better, repeat. History is written by the victors, so why do liberal progressive voices decide to let our independence day be written by the losers of history.

This land was made for you and me. This land was made by you and me. African slaves created the foundation of our economy. Chinese laborers built our railroads that connected the coasts. Undocumented Mexican and Central Americans work our farms. Men and Women. There is not one moment in American History where there wasn’t a brown person being stepped on, and despite all of this, it’s white america that believes its ‘losing its America,”

They are right. They are losing the war. They are supposed to. We are supposed to fight against police brutality, against a prison culture, against rape culture. We are supposed to throw rocks, throw words, make music, speak out, never be silenced. My parents came to this country, where everything was taken away from them in their home country. Their jobs, their freedoms, and now i live a fairly middle class life in New York City. It’s not perfect, there’s still so much further to go. But i am American, and all these struggles define me, define us, and we own it. We own every victory.

If you don’t want to celebrate today, if you’d prefer to keep fighting. More power to you. But if you can only celebrate today inauthentically, then you’re disparaging the very people you say you support. People fought for your rights, were arrested for your rights, died for your rights. Not just old dead white dudes with powdered wigs, not just the Tea Party. Stonewall Riots, Baltimore Riots, Charleston Massacre, Kent State Massacre. This day doesn’t belong to those who wrap themselves in the stars and stripes, it belongs to the people who would burn it to get something better. This day doesn’t belong to symbols, it belongs to those who sacrificed. Their life, liberty, and happiness.

I spend 364 days of the year trying to do my part in the good fight against racism, sexism, all the -isms. That on this day of the year, i like to remember, be grateful, and most of all – respect, all the soldiers that have died in the struggle for this American Dream. I don’t mean soldiers in state-sanctioned war. I mean the soldiers who are fighting right now, with only words if that is all they have, for a more perfect union.

Keep on rockin’ in the free world.

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