Independence Day, which recognizes the passage of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, has long been a holiday where we celebrate freedom from tyrannical rule. It’s been called America’s birthday, and it’s typically a joyous affair with lots of gatherings, fireworks, American flags and an overall sense of patriotic pride.
While our framers lived drastically different lives that included beliefs and practices we’ve since deemed incompatible with our American values – like slavery and lack of rights for women and people of color – the idea of democracy is something we’ve held close since the ink was dry on the Constitution. Democracy is what enables us to adapt to changing times and right the wrongs made clear by what we’ve learned through past experiences. Through science and research. Through trials and tribulations.
What’s different this year, and perhaps for the past six years, is a rapid movement to destabilize our democracy and remove the constitutional rights we’ve fought so hard to institute. We’ve seen emerge a theocratic and autocratic type of leadership that leverages religion and fear to shame, blame and create divisions that only benefit a privileged few. We’ve experienced a repudiation of basic human decency and disdain for this country’s rich diversity in thought, religion, race and gender.
The American flag has been co-opted by a group of radicalized individuals who seek to instill hate and division among people who don’t fit into their exclusionary view of the world, while still claiming to be patriots. Homogeneity and control are their guiding forces, and for those of us not driven by these un-American motives, it can be hard for us to show our American pride. We don’t want to be linked with those groups because they’re antithetical to everything we associate with true American ideals.
But it’s our flag. It’s not just theirs. And on Independence Day, when many of us may be tempted to completely renounce the celebration, let’s use this day as a rallying cry to fight back for what we’ve lost. Why does a minority of radicals get to decide who we are, when the vast majority of Americans have a much kinder, supportive and inclusive view?
Right now, it may feel overwhelming with the onslaught of anti-constitutional attacks coming at us on a daily basis. But let’s harness the anger and sadness we feel into action. There are a lot more of us than them, but we all have to act to make change happen.
No matter how you plan to spend this holiday, our hope is that it will galvanize a movement that leverages our energy and patriotism for good. We also hope it serves as a poignant reminder of how important it is to vote, as voting is the most powerful way to effect the change we want to see.