Fourth of July: I’m Doin’ It Wrong
Happy Independence Day, Americans! Aren’t you glad you live in the USA, and not in, say, Iraq? Boy, I’d sure hate to be living in Iraq right now. Or in Chile under Pinochet; hoorah for living in a country where the football stadium doesn’t double as a concentration camp!
Wait. I don’t think this post is supposed to be quite so sarcastic. Let me try again. Did I mention my love of cat macros? My love of cat macros is strong enough to overcome even my allergy to over-the-top flag-waving, maybe that will help.
I can’t take full credit (or blame) for this one. It was originally Cala’s idea, I’m just acting as the faceless servant of the Spirit of the Internets to bring it into lolbeing. And of course, I wouldn’t’ve seen the idea in the first place were it not for Bitch Ph.D.’s post:
Picnics! Fireworks! Hangin’ out! Celebratin’ all those ideals we learned in our 1970’s childhoods about how We Can Work to Make Our Country Live Up to Its Promise! Equality for everyone! Free speech! The huddled masses, yearning to breathe free! The separation of church and state! Freedom of conscience! Promoting the general welfare! Establishing justice!
Only, this year makes it just a wee bit dificil to be patriotic and all. I wanna carry a sign or wear a tshirt to tomorrow’s 4th of July fair / fireworks extravaganza. Not something all in-your-face and partisan, b/c that’s not the point. Something mournful, or poignant
Now usually when I am feeling in-your-face and partisan, I like to make at least a token nod at “hey they started it!” – but not on the 4th of July. Today I feel an urge to be not just open-when-asked or open-on-a-blog about my politics, but bring-it-up-at-the-BBQ-to-everyone’s-annoyance open. Though I am aware of the problems of being OMG that pinko hippie chick and don’t plan to actually harangue anyone, this holiday mostly leaves me cold and/or grouchy. (Except the fireworks. I like fireworks. Except the fireworks that someone in my neighborhood was playing with last night.)
But why is that? Part of it, clearly, is the way the right wing has such a stranglehold on the concept of patriotism. Not just on the level of “shut up and support the President”, but a deeper association between flags and militarism, and particularly the American flag and American exceptionalism. (NB it is possible that by “right wing” here I mean “everyone outside my leftist bubble”.)
On other days, patriotic narratives typically have, if not quite a partisan goal, at least a clear political purpose. On the 4th of July, though, everyone tries to come together and recite a consensus patriotic narrative we can all feel good about. In the process, we expose larger narratives about who we are as a democratic nation, which are of course still political. However, they are much more difficult to talk about, because they are more abstract and/or we aren’t really in the habit of debating them.
I suspect that my gut response to Independence Day is really an objection to one of these underlying stories. For example, I’m all for the ideals of the Enlightenment, but I’m not so sure that the nation-state was a very good idea. If I had to guess, I’d guess that I’m really responding to some flavor of American exceptionalism, but that doesn’t satisfy all the voices in the back of my head. However, I’ve got a barbecue to go to, and fireworks to watch from a friend’s deck overlooking the Bay, so an unsatisfying guess will just have to do.
Happy 4th, everybody.