Monday’s celebration of the 264th independence day of the United States of America was dampened by the mortal and withering effects of the coronavirus pandemic, racist killings and what has come to be known as the January 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill. Yet there is hope and satisfaction in the thought that America’s democracy survives. This must rank as the primary cause to celebrate as the nation struggles to maintain the common bonds that keep it together. “I think many of us are feeling conflicted about celebrating the 4th of July right now,” obstacle race champion and attorney Amelia Boone tweeted as the week gave way to the long holiday weekend.
In her reckoning, patriotism is also about fighting for change. “I’m not giving up on the US though I think many of us are feeling conflicted about celebrating the 4th of July right now.” Viewing it as part of patriotism, she said: “If you have the privilege to fight, take action. Opting out is easy. I’m not giving up on the US.” That sentiment is doubtless shared by millions who on Monday celebrated the anniversary of independence from British rule. For the first time in three years, in the midst of eased coronavirus restrictions, it was a day for taking off work, flocking to parades, devouring hotdogs and burgers at backyard barbecues and gathering under a canopy of stars and exploding fireworks.
Baltimore, for one, is resuming its Independence Day celebrations after a two-year hiatus, and to the tremendous delight of residents. Colourful displays, big and small, lit up the night sky from New York to Seattle to Dallas. The grandstanding will be forgone in drought-stricken and wildfire-prone regions of the West. Phoenix is also sacrificing fireworks not because of the pandemic or fire concerns but due to supply-chain issues. In emotional ceremonies across the country, newer residents will swear oaths of citizenship, qualifying them to vote for the first time in the upcoming midterm elections. Indubitably, these are precarious times.
An economic recession lurks and the national psyche is deeply disturbed by mass shootings, as happened in an elementary school in Texas and at a Buffalo supermarket in New York. Sharp social and political divisions have also been exposed by certain recent Supreme Court decisions overturning the constitutional right to abortion and even striking down a New York law limiting who may carry a gun. But for many, July 4 is also an opportunity to set aside political differences and to celebrate unity. Altogether, it is time to reflect on the revolution that gave rise to history’s longest-lived democracy.