The Fourth of July is a happy holiday for most Americans. Everyone I know enjoys the long weekend with barbecues, beach trips, or time with family and friends. But sometimes I wonder if people know what and why they are celebrating. Sometimes I feel that most people have lost the idea of Independence Day and simply celebrate it because it’s a day off from work and an excuse to drink in excess. However, this year, I’ve taken some time to reflect on what independence and the day that celebrates it mean to me.
Independence Day in 1776 was a historic day for the United States. It meant that it went from being controlled by Great Britain to being an independent country that could govern itself. Our nation was freed from the abuse and manipulation of Great Britain and could decide and enforce its own laws. As a whole, the colonies became the United States of America. Because of this historic event and the importance of it to the people of the time period and to the historical events that followed, this day should always be celebrated.
Everyone in the United States was not free when the nation was freed from Great Britain. A vast majority of the population, namely slaves, were still considered property and subhuman. Looking back, I’m not sure if these people celebrated Independence Day, and if they did, I wonder if they celebrated it in the same way as truly free people. For hundreds of years after the Independence Day of 1776, slaves and other people of color would continue to be mistreated, abused and controlled by white Americans. Because of this, one might argue that Black Independence Day came in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves. However, were black Americans truly free after this date? There was still vast discrimination, hatred and violence surrounding black Americans at the hands of white Americans, and there still is to this day, to a lesser degree.
This raises some questions. Has there truly been an Independence Day for all people of all races to share together? Can we celebrate as one nation on the Fourth of July to remember those who died for our country’s independence and for the freedom of the slaves? Can we say that all people in the United States of America are truly free and independent?
I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I do know that they have shaped my understanding of Independence Day. To me, the Fourth of July should be celebrated as the day on which the colonies became the United States because of their freedom from Great Britain. The Fourth of July should be celebrated as a commemoration of those who fought for our nation’s independence. The Fourth of July is a day to remember how lucky we are to live in a country whose history would have been much different if it hadn’t released itself from the hands of the British. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my many history classes throughout my education, it’s that history is important in understanding the present. Knowing about colonial America and being able to compare it to post-colonial America has allowed me to understand how important Independence Day is for our nation. Yes, not everyone was free in 1776. But to me, that’s not why we celebrate the Fourth of July. We celebrate the Fourth of July as a victory, not as a day of freedom. We celebrate it to reflect on how far we have come as a nation and understand that 1776 was a pivotal year in our nation’s history, allowing us to come this far.
Independence Day is so much more than a day off from work - it’s a day to remember those who have lived before you and what they endured, lived through and fought for so that you can be where you are today. Independence Day is an American holiday because of what it means about the present. Independence Day is important and should always be celebrated with its historical significance in mind.
This Fourth of July, please take a moment to remember those who died so that you can live in the country you do now with all of the privileges we have, and please acknowledge how truly lucky you are to live here, especially when there are people who are still ruled by unfair and unfit nations. Please remember the significance of this day.
Happy Fourth of July!