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Reflecting on the 4th of July

By: Jake Miller

Some of my fondest memories involve the Fourth of July: my (World Series champion) little league baseball team having our own float in my town’s parade, grilling hamburgers and hot dogs with my closest friends, watching fireworks on the beach with my dad and our towel catching on fire, the list goes on. These memories are so deeply rooted in my brain, but why? What separates these moments from others? I remember the specifics of the parade more than winning the little league title, I’ve grilled with my friends countless times, and I’ve seen plenty of fireworks in all sorts of settings, so why are these moments so special? I believe the answer is simple: it was the Fourth of July. These events happened in coordination with a holiday that represents unity and camaraderie, celebration and spectacle, remembrance and appreciation. It is a day in which nothing supersedes the importance of family, friends, and community. All of this to ask, why does it feel as if the holiday is losing its luster? Why does it feel like America is drifting from this once sacred holiday?

First, let’s dissect what is being celebrated. In so few words, we can look to 1773. Citizens of the Thirteen Colonies were becoming increasingly fed up with the taxes and tariffs the British government were imparting on them as means of paying off debts of the French and Indian War. After years of pleading with the British government, the colonies found their tipping point with the Tea Act of 1773. This latest taxation without representation became the hottest point of protest, leading to events such as the Boston Massacre and Boston Tea Party. The colonies felt as though there was an improper process in assigning these taxes and demanded change, which, of course, didn’t come. In 1775, after the battles of Lexington and Concord, which started due to British militias attempting to confiscate the weapons of colonial residents, it became apparent that war was imminent. In June of 1776, it was suggested in a Continental Congress meeting that the colonies secede from The Crown and form one nation. On July 2nd, 1776, Congress voted to declare independence. On July 4th, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted.

So why do we celebrate this event? It’s simple, really. We celebrate this event in appreciation and remembrance of the bravery of our founding fathers. We celebrate the ideals the document brings forth, none more prominent or important than every person’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These principles define our country, they are literally the foundation on which it was built. The Fourth of July acts as a yearly reminder of how we should treat each other, what we should demand of those in power, and what the cost of independence truly is.

Unfortunately, these principles seem to be fading. Our nation’s morale is at an all-time low. With each passing day, the polarization of the “united” states grows. The days of “America is number one!” seem to be a thing of the past. Let’s be honest, we all hate each other. We’re pointing fingers claiming that one group is the cause of our problems while refusing to come up with unified solutions. Nobody is right, and it certainly feels like everybody is wrong. Sure, we might still be a little stir-crazy coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there needs to be a resurgence of unity, and soon. As tension builds, just as in the 1700’s, we need to be together more than ever.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the correct move is. I don’t expect us to all come to some grand conclusion out of thin air, as great as that may be. But really, what do we do? How do we take that first step towards change? I believe it starts with changing ourselves. We need to remember that this country is known as a “melting pot” for a reason. Different races, religions, creeds, beliefs, etc. have succeeded here and continue to thrive. This is because of the fundamental pillars of freedom and acceptance our country was founded on. Americans need to re-learn to accept differences and find commonality in their neighbor. In recognizing one’s variation from another, it becomes much easier to find what is similar between the two.

So how do we search for, process, and act upon these differences in pursuit of a better tomorrow? The most powerful tool in the world, knowledge, can be a start. Educate yourself on political events from the perspective of both sides of the wire, read more than just headlines, and formulate opinions based on facts, data, and multiple sources. With this knowledge, vote! One of the rights we celebrate on this holiday is the right to vote. Take your informed opinions and put them into action by going to your nearest polling station. If you don’t see yourself acting on either of these steps, the very least you can do is have a conversation. Speak without prejudice and ignorance with those close to you about current events and how to improve our beloved nation.

This Fourth of July, 11 score and five years since the inception of our country, I challenge all Americans to put aside their desperation for one day. Ignite some new lifelong memories for you and your loved ones to reminisce on as our country moves forward. Remember that our nation was born from turbulent times. Celebrate the ideals that our flag stands for, remember that freedom isn’t free, and love one another not only as equals, but as Americans.

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