Fireworks Never Stop Being Fun!: Some Thoughts on This Independence Day Weekend
Yesterday was the fourth of July, so of course, the issue of patriotism was as thick in the air as the smell of charcoal smoke and sulfur. For me the day began the way all discussions of American identity begin – with the subject of commercial materialism as performance of belonging.
Person 1: I just realized I don’t have a fourth of July shirt to wear to the ball game tonight.
Person 2: You don’t? I bet Sarah has one. She has shirts for all the holidays.
Me: Grossly untrue, I only have shirts for Halloween and Christmas. I have no other holiday-related shirts.
P2: But you must have red, blue or white shirts?
Me: Yeah, somewhere I’m sure; I didn’t think to pack them.
P1: You wouldn’t because you’re not patriotic.
Me: True dat. I just don’t think the U.S. is the best country. This “we’re number 1” nonsense is ridiculous.
P1: Well, if you don’t like here, you can leave.
Truth be told, I do like living here, but there are many many many many, and even more lately, troubling things about the way in which Americans and the U.S. government conduct themselves. I’m not even referring to the large scale atrocities that most Americans get all squirmy about recognizing, like: slavery, the massacres of tens of thousands of Native Americans, the violent and politically manipulative annexation of huge sections of Mexico and then the hypocrisy and mistreatment of Mexican citizens who became “Americans” against their will; I’m referring to things like what happened just earlier this week with the supreme court’s ruling that corporations can legally withhold medical care from women based on an owner’s “religious convictions.” What happened to the whole separation of church and state? What happened to personal freedoms and the right to govern one’s own body? What happened that all of a sudden it became alright to legally favor (it’s been happening unofficially for decades) Christianity over other religions practiced in the U.S.?
It makes me sick with anger, but more than that, it makes me scared. In what other ways is this country going to move backwards? Certainly it is moving forward in some very significant ways. The fact that same-sex marriage is now legally recognized in nineteen states and the District of Columbia is wonderful. The whole having a black president thing, also a couple ethical leaps forward. The number of working-class students and students of color attending and successfully graduating higher education is s-l-o-w-l-y creeping forward. But then there’s the Supreme Court’s ruling that overturned key aspects of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the disgusting, hateful treatment of people in prisons, the homeless, and veterans
Clearly the jokes about corporations being people that surfaced during the 2012 presidential election are a lot less funny now. At least for those of us disturbed by this strengthening of that concept through the Court’s decision regarding Hobby Lobby’s ability to legally restrict the health care received by their female employees. Of course yesterday, in the casual conversation that transpired in the space of five minutes, I didn’t say any of that. I didn’t point out that it is this country that both makes my existence as a women of mixed ethnicity difficult and possible. I didn’t point out that it is in this country that I was able to work (like literally work; you know, like cleaning fucking toilets and getting sexually harassed as a waitress) to put myself through college, be the first person in my family to attend this level education and then experience class-based discrimination at the micro and macro aggression levels by the very institution that argues I have a right to be there. The U.S. is like an abusive spouse. Telling you one minute how hot you look in that outfit, then giving you a black eye because you got some attention for looking hot in that outfit.
U.S. as S.O. – Slut! You wanted people to look at your ass!
American People – You bought me these pants! You said you were proud to have such hot-bootied eye candy.
U.S. – I thought you were only going to wear it in the house. I didn’t think you’d go outside in it. What kind of person are you that you’d want to show off your body in public?!
America People – but I thought I had freedom of expression?
U. S. - (slap, kick, punch, use one of five shots guns to shoot the armoire and television, then door slam)
Often I am deeply ashamed of this country and the actions of the people in it. And yes, including my own behavior as one of those people who (un)wittingly contributes to a complacency with capitolaistic ass-holery and the way this affects other humans (myself included). I guess that's the rub (as they say) with trying to be honest with ourselves regarding the instiutions and society we live in - it is flawed because humans are flawed; we are all filled with contradiction, hypocrisy, double-sided nature, and self-interest. But we also have a bunch of good shit too, like compassion, creativity, and scientific curiosity. Oh, and baseball. Baseball’s pretty awesome (with or without a patriotic shirt). And so is pie. And cool whip. (Mmmmmmm, synthetic)
In conclusion, Happy Independence Day weekend! I hope you enjoyed the holiday in good ol’ American fashion by getting drunk, cooking dead animals purchased from a super store, and blowing shit up!