July 4th the day of the fireworks and America’s birthday. July 4th is a holiday meant to cause happiness and joy. It is a day for family get togethers, picnics and amazing fireworks. This is what the 4th of July means to most people. What does July 4th mean to me? To me, July 4th starts a week earlier when you can hear fireworks around the neighborhood. I get both excited and nervous. I am excited because I expect the festivities to be fun. I am anxious because July 4th wasn’t really designed for people like me. The 4th of July is expressed by blue, red and white themed desserts at the store. It is hearing about the upcoming holiday when making plans with family or friends at the end of June. July 4th symbolizes the American spirit and how it is mass marketed to the typical American audience. July 4th is seeing the beautiful and ugly sides of patriotism. July 4th is a fun loving day where you can be happy.
July 4th is also filled with bitterness and hatred. To me, July 4th is a complex feeling of both positives and negatives that has shaped and made me aware of my identity over the years.
My family doesn’t take July 4th as seriously as most people. So to me, July 4th isn’t a holiday to celebrate or get ready for but a day to relax and enjoy some fireworks. Most years, I spend the 4th of July with my mother and siblings, counting down the time until we leave to see the firework display; betting on how long they will last. My siblings love the fireworks display. I don’t look forward to July 4th like most people but I do enjoy the positive energy it brings which always puts me in a good mood.
The 4th of July means seeing other people that you don’t know while watching fireworks and making room for them next to you if they can’t find a place to sit. It’s going on Snapchat and seeing your friends post badly timed photos of fireworks on their story with the cheesy caption of “HAPPY INDEPENCE DAY!!”. July 4th to me is about the unity of a nation, all kinds of people coming together and celebrating the birth of a nation that they are a part of. July 4th despite it’s problematic aspects is something that means a lot to me. It has created some of my happiest memories and I love that it makes people happy and unites others.
July 4th, as I mentioned, also has a negative meaning to me. Last year, my family and I went to watch fireworks in our hometown. Halfway through the display a group of young white teens drove past our car and yelled both racial and islamophobic slurs at us. This incident ruined my family’s experience and we drove home about five minutes later. There behavior acutely reminded me that while July 4th is a holiday that was meant to bring joy, it is also a holiday that is reaped with racism and oppression. It is a holiday that wasn’t created for people like me, a Muslim American who lives in the midwest. Patriotism can be a beautiful thing but it has an ugly side that many people tend to ignore. Many people believe that America should be celebrated by “ True Americans” and that usually leads many people to be unfairly bigoted to those that don’t fit that very small and close-minded niche. This tye of patriotism makes people feel pressured to celebrate and do ‘typical American things’ on July 4th even if they don’t want to. Whenever people bring up the problem with July 4th they are accused of hating America and are told to “leave the country”. To truly celebrate all that America represents, we need to address these issues. As you celebrate Independence Day this July 4th, have fun but don’t engage in toxic behavior for the sake of the “True American Spirit”. Let’s make this an America where we all celebrate because we all belong.