It has been a few years now since I have felt the pull to celebrate the 4th of July. It is less a matter of not enjoying fireworks and barbecues and more that I feel a deep sense of disconnect with the folks around me who get whipped up into a patriotic fervor. It's not that I don't love my country. It's not that I'm not proud of the good that we have done as a nation. And it is most definitely that I don't appreciate the sacrifices that have been made so that we might live in relative freedom compared to the rest of the world.
I appreciate all of these things. I enjoy a good fireworks show as much, if not a little bit more, then the next gal. Family barbecues are often the highlights of the summer. My problem, however, is that I can't blithely celebrate all of these things while there is so much that is very, very wrong in this country. Celebrating our 'freedom' while our nation has one of the highest incarcaration rates in the world strikes me as a sick irony. We're tied with Seychelles for the number one position on that list. When people cheer about USA being number one at something, I highly doubt this is what they have in mind.
I can not in good conscience celebrate the military when the military does such a poor job of taking care of veterans. The VA is infamous for the poor quality of their hospitals and of their poor quality of service to the veterans. When there are veterans dying as they are waiting for assistance from the hospital and that this is reported in news story, after news story, after news story, there is something terribly wrong with this picture. This is not something to celebrate. This is something to get angry over and demand to be fixed.
I can not in good conscience celebrate the 'freedom' of the nation when rulings are made that strip liberties away from the people and encourage discriminatory practices by the Supreme Court. Rulings like the most recent one on the Hobby Lobby case, the one a few years back regarding eminent domain, or the other one from recent past wherein portions of the restrictions on how spending was used in an election were struck down. I can not look at these things and say that my nation respects my freedom and rights with these kinds of decisions.
The Hobby Lobby case has established that one's employer may pressure their employees against medical treatments that the employer finds distasteful. One might say that I am blowing this out of proportion because it is merely telling them that they can choose not to consume health insurance options that permit contraceptives (in this specific case) but they have always had that option. The case establishes that it is in principle tolerable and legal to discriminate against women who use contraceptives, regardless of the cause and medical need for said use. I said something about this a few days ago. You may want to take a peek at it to get my full opinion on the implications of that ruling.
The eminent domain ruling has essentially ended private property ownership, when it comes to land. It has created a situation where a business can, on the promise of creating more tax revenue for the municipality, take your property under color of law. It may not be the business itself taking the land, but the end result is just that. There's a reason why many people hate Walmart. It is because since this ruling, Walmart has been utilizing this legal process of ejecting people from their property on a regular basis. The only reason why no one has really heard much about it in the news is because the business is big and brings in a considerable amount of money, compared to the private property owners who are getting shafted. Also, the law hasn't been used to force people out of their houses, for the most part.
No, people losing their homes have been a result of financial bubbles collapsing and shady business practices in the banking world. Another thing that I can not say makes the 4th worth celebrating. The 'American Dream' is to own your own home, have a vehicle, and a reasonably secure job that you can retire from once you've become old enough that you're not particularly apt at it any more. That dream is not a reality for most of the nation. Most of us are going to be working until we're well into our 'Golden Years' and I don't expect Social Security to provide much of a safety net.
According to theory, on paper, my family is middle class. Functionally, we're at the bottom of the middle class spectrum. We have health insurance through charity programs because we can't afford it otherwise. We've used up most of our savings on medication to manage my health problems. We are mired in debt because we did what we were encouraged to when we finished high school: went to college. There are people who have college degrees who are working multiple minimum wage jobs to keep a roof over their head. Why? Because the jobs that we were promised before we went to college aren't there.
The nation is living paycheck to paycheck. In some cases, they're hanging in the best they can until they get their benefits check at the beginning of the month. I can not celebrate this. I don't celebrate Independence Day because there's too many things wrong with this country. I don't feel that I or the rest of us have the right to rest on the laurels collected by others and perform in public rituals of mental masturbation, ignoring the work that needs done.
Between the unjust wars that we have entered into and the plight of the nation becoming clear to me, I simply can not celebrate the nation in that unanimous orgy of fireworks, hot dogs, and beer that so many of my countrymen do. It is the same as spitting in the face of my neighbors who count themselves lucky if they can afford those hot dogs this week. I refuse to do that.