Independence Day Patriotism

America celebrated its 239th birthday this past Saturday, giving rise to what I’m going to be calling fake patriots, or fakeriots for short. I hesitate to make judgment calls about people and their motivations, but I don’t think most Americans really grasp why we celebrate the fourth of July. So my aim in this post is to outline the holiday and everyone who celebrates it, and why I think most of us (myself included) need to check ourselves for celebrating something so absentmindedly.

For starters, lets refresh ourselves with a brief history of Independence Day. That is what it’s called, by the way. In the 17th and 18th centuries, a little thing called imperialism took off in Western Europe. It was around before then, but it was in these centuries that countries like France, England, Portugal, Spain, and the Netherlands began to conquer the globe most extensively. Spain and Portugal took most of Western Africa, South America, and Central America. England took the east coast of North America, India, Australia, parts of Africa, and dozens of small islands. France took Canada, parts of North America, Northern Africa, Southeast Asia, and dozens of small islands. Europe is infamous for its wars to prove who could be the biggest badass on the block, which caused lots of conflict in the colonies of the powers. England and France were the two biggest kids at the time and North America was a promising new land to explore and was full of resources. This led to the 7 Years War, which saw Britain as the champion. Winning that war gave Britain possession of India and a lot of France’s territory in North America, but it also bankrupted England. England had to make up the debt through taxes on its territories. But for the American colonists, they felt as though they were paying for a war that wasn’t theirs. Combined with a dozen other factors, the colonists decided they wanted to be their own country and on July 4, 1776, Thomas Jefferson presented the Declaration of Independence, which was the start of our country. We fought a war against the greatest super power of the time and came out victorious, basically shocking the globe. By 1789, we had our Constitution and our first president. Here we are, 239 years later.

So now that we have a basic understanding of where our country came from (and I do mean SUPER basic), what is a fakeriot? Well, it’s the type of people who will post “Happy fourth!” on their Facebook, probably with a selfie of some “patriotic” tank tops or shorts or something. The people who think Independence Day is just another day to have a barbecue in the summer or who only care about watching fireworks and lighting their own. It’s the 4th of July sales at every store trying to make money. They don’t give a damn about celebrating independence, they just want more money. In other words, it’s all about them. Can they get off of work, get lots of likes because they “support America,” or have fun with friends lighting explosives? They’ll celebrate our nation’s birthday just so they can get something out of it, which is completely backwards from the meaning behind a holiday.

The very idea of a holiday is to celebrate something beyond yourself, with a few noticeable exceptions (looking at you Halloween). Christmas isn’t about presents and food, it’s about the birth of Christ. Easter isn’t about bunnies and eggs and more food, it’s Christ’s resurrection. Thanksgiving isn’t about the Turkey, it’s about being gracious for the blessings in your life. Independence Day is honoring the people who fought for what they believed in 239 years ago. Fully knowing that the price of trying to gain independence would be war, they signed that document anyway. America is one of the world’s first true democracies. Our very existence was a challenge to Western civilization of the time. America is something special; a beacon to the world. Our Declaration of Independence and Constitution gave hope to bunches of other countries who have since then adopted their own.

What I’m getting at here is that Independence Day is about a hell of a lot more than barbecues and selfies. Scrolling through Facebook I see dozens of people, celebrity or otherwise, who are dressed in red white in blue sharing a picture of themselves, or posting a status saying happy birthday to the country. All I see when I look at that is tradition and selfishness without any sincerity to it. And I’ll be honest, I’m not really a patriot either. I didn’t post any celebratory status or picture. I did take part in fireworks, and I definitely didn’t think about the fact I was “celebrating” the birth of my country. I’m no patriot, but you won’t find me pretending to be.

Why am I not a patriot? I would so love to be one. I wish I had pride in my country, but frankly, I don’t have many situations to foster that pride, and I have very little to be proud of. Often times the most patriotic people are the ones who have to deal with other countries. In other words, you don’t really start to have pride in you feel like you represent your country. When I was in Mexico, I wore my American patch a little more proudly. It applies to any political system you’re a part of. When in college, I’ll be a Coloradoan in Utah. It’s gonna cause me to be more proud of my state because I feel like I have to represent Colorado to all the Utahns. Also, the most patriotic are the ones who choose to be where they are. Immigrants are frequently more proud to be American than domestically born Americans, and that’s because they want to be here. But on the flip side, I also don’t feel entirely like American is a badge worth wearing anymore. It comes with so many stigmas that it’s almost embarrassing to call myself an American in some circles. America doesn’t have a lot that’s special about it anymore either. What made this nation great once upon a time was the revolutionary system of government. Free market, freedom of religion, freedom of speech and press and assembly. No kings or queens, equal opportunity for all. In today’s world, that can be said of so many other countries that America isn’t as special for those reasons. What does America have that nobody else has? What is there to be proud of? Right now in my eyes, I see very little. But I really want to be patriotic.

This brings me to the final (I think) topic I want to raise, and that’s how patriotism manifests itself. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the current celebratory methods for any holiday if the people celebrating are keeping the real reason for celebration close to their hearts. Food, fellowship, fireworks, gift giving, all of it is wonderful, but they can easily become the reason for celebrating instead of the tools for celebrating. This might get some friends mad at me, but for the love of Pete, both political sides can be patriotic. Democrats overall don’t hate America, and neither do Republicans. Both want it to succeed. Patriotism doesn’t mean you’re a gun toting red neck who is related to a bunch of veterans, even though it can be that. Foreign students coming to America to seek education can be just as patriotic. People who vote to remove guns can be just as patriotic. Patriotism can look different to everybody when their heart is in the right place.

I don’t know what else I can say. This is kind of a weird post. I don’t know how cohesively I gave my opinion, so leave me a comment about what you think about the current state of celebrating Independence Day. Am I right? I think we need to remember why we celebrate instead of using these holidays as an excuse to further our own desires. If we do the latter, it’s my opinion that we make a mockery of the original meaning for the celebration. Let me know what you think.

“Patriotism is voluntary. It is a feeling of loyalty and allegiance that is the result of knowledge and belief. A patriot shows their patriotism through their actions, by their choice.” ~Jesse Ventura

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