Tomorrow is July 4th, and at the end of this month, I will mark the one year anniversary of this blog. It’s beginning to sound like a very celebratory month. Maybe.
In 1990, I was in England for July 4th. Strangely enough it’s not a big day for them. My friend who lives in Nottingham always remembers to text me Happy Fourth every year, and I can’t tell if I’m reading into it or if she has a slightly insincere tone when she says it.
As I was driving around Charlotte yesterday, I passed the entrances to various neighborhoods. Almost all had little American flags planted and waving in these areas, and there was usually a red, white, and blue bunting across the upper edge of the neighborhood sign itself.
These decorations were not overwhelming, costly, or super time-consuming to get into place, but they were very nice and patriotic. I remember the weeks that followed the 9/11 attacks; there were flags everywhere. Almost every house was flying one. Patriotic songs filled the airwaves. We were united against a common enemy, but there is very little unity in our country today. Only differences it seems.
I’ve heard a lot of people say they refuse to celebrate our country this year. Because the government is taking away freedoms, it would be hypocritical to celebrate “the land of the free''. I am completely torn by this notion; I can honestly see pros and cons for both sides of the argument.
To be sure, America has faced a lot of tests and trials recently, and I think it’s fair to say, we have failed spectacularly at most, if not all of them.
But maybe part of what makes this country what it is, is the fact that we can say out loud that we think it has failed, that we disagree with what is being done. We have the right to protest.
In Rome, around 35 AD, Emperor Tiberius would hold Treason Trials and exile, imprison, or execute anyone who dared utter a word against himself or the Roman Empire. We don’t have to worry about things like this - so there’s that.
By no means am I suggesting we put our heads in the sand or sit back and wait for the government to take care of us and do what’s right, but maybe we should realize that not only is the freedom to dissent a gift, but it is also a gift given to everyone. So even if the person speaking’s beliefs are diametrically opposed to yours or mine, letting them speak is a gift.
Yes, we have differences with each other and differences in our beliefs. Do we think this is the first time? Independence from England, slavery, succession, civil rights, Vietnam, etc. It would probably be a shorter list if we talked about the things we actually agree on. It is the freedom to dissent, to argue, to protest that sets us apart. So if we can’t celebrate what our country stands for right now, we can at least celebrate the ability and the freedom to stand up and make it known.