The Fourth of July is a sensory holiday.
You see the fireworks, bright colors of the American flag; smell the smoke left behind, the hot dogs on the grill; feel the humidity rolling down the back of your neck, the mosquitos nipping behind your knees; taste buttery corn and sticky popsicles; and hear the crackle, applause, and drunken cheering as the holiday finishes off for the night.
The Fourth is never really considered a thought-provoking holiday like other ones are. Christmas is famous for the internal struggle it poses for children weighing the importance of presents over the temptation of misbehaving. Easter's strong Christian ties indicate it toward prayer and religious celebration. New Year's provokes meditation on the past year's events and the future year's oncoming. Halloween, perhaps, is a similarly aesthetic-driven holiday to the Fourth, but the psychology of fear and the different ways people can celebrate it makes it different.
Americans share the same vision of the Fourth of July. Red, white and blue, a green field, smoke from the grill trailing up into the yellow sun, as hot day turns to muggy night and the lawn chairs come out under the fireworks show.
For me this year is different. I think about the Fourth of July now with... not quite distaste. Perhaps with apathy. I do not hate the people I am surrounded by, but neither do I feel the same kind of pride toward my country that I am supposedly expected to feel. I am in a place I love, under a sky I can't help but admire, under a government that I feel does not represent me.
If we as a country all have the same collective experience during the Fourth, then the Fourth of July unites me with the half of the population that our current government actually does represent. Does this make the holiday a beautiful one, or an ugly one?
What are the fireworks, and what is the smoke left behind? What is making America great and what is leaving millions of citizens without healthcare?
I can wear my red t-shirt and my blue shorts, eat my corn on the cob, lounge in my lawn chair and toast to America declaring independence from the British Empire. Sweat will drip down my face and I'll sip from a water bottle with water droplets forming on the outside. I'll press the cool bottle on the back of my neck after a round of frisbee with my brother and an obscure family friend's twelve year-old son, and I'll point at the fireworks saying, "that one's my favorite I think."
But in my head I will be asking, "and for what?"