It's also the day where women wear flag printed bikinis, where people grill anything they can throw on a barbecue, drink a boatload of beer and blow stuff up.
I'm not feeling all that jingoistic patriotism that some people demand this time of year.
I'm not flag waving and declaring our superiority in the eyes of the world.
I'm not at all convinced that we are truly the superpower we think we are anymore.
We break the Geneva Convention because we can.
We wage wars on terror based on false pretenses.
We spy on our citizens and our allies.
We violate the highest law of our land and drop bombs on people without due process.
Our government is so corrupt that we're letting a handful of corporations routinely poison us and pollute not just our country but the entire planet.
I'm a student of policy and economics who grows increasingly frustrated with the imbalance of wealth in this country, fed by the very corruption that I mentioned already.
We strip rights from some, we deny equality to others, we give a few more power than they deserve.
We are completely preoccupied with arguing about gun rights while thousands and thousands die each year.
We don't care when hospitals close their emergency rooms because they are tired of caring for patients who can't pay.
We tolerate elected officials who believe women's bodies should be at the mercy of the law.
We are afraid of immigrants and the alleged threats they make upon our well-being, the very well-being that requires every single one of us to trace our ancestry to immigrants.
I could go on for days...
One of the books I've read over and over again that speaks to me the most as an American is Alexis de Toqueville's Democracy in America. (there are many sites where you can download it for free if you haven't read it before) The concept that rings the truest in my soul is a simple one, one that we have lost sight of in this country. It is the idea of self interest, rightly understood. Essentially, this means that our system of capitalism and democracy can and will thrive only when entrepreneurship exists in such a way that it fosters the development of jobs and consequent wealth, but does so without gaining an unfair advantage over others, without treating workers unfairly, without gaming the system at expense of anyone else. If everyone can look out for themselves, and also be aware of their larger role in the economy and society, we will all thrive.
Somewhere along the way, though, we stopped worrying about the rest of the economy and society, and began to only care about ourselves. Unchecked, it will be our undoing. Interestingly, de Toqueville also warned of the unfair treatment of women, and saw even in the 1840's how dangerous the delineation between men and women under the law was.
Maybe we need to stop listening so much to what the pundits and talking heads say on television, and more to what this Frenchmen said about our system over 150 years ago. We'd all be a little more enlightened if we took what he had to say to heart.
I won't stand idly by and say that I 100% support everything the United States stands for anymore. I won't turn a blind eye and be a complacent citizen. No.
Instead, I will do my duty as a citizen. I will speak. I will assemble and protest. I will vote. I will educate myself and others. I will strive for better. I will fight for equality.
I will because it is what we must do, in order to form a more perfect union. True patriotism demands it. To strive for the world our forefathers dreamt of when they drafted the Declaration of Independence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with
certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty
and the pursuit of Happiness.
The unyielding optimist that dwells in my mind believes this world can and should exist, but the realist in me know that we are not anywhere near it now.
So, after you are done with the grilling and the drinking and the blowing stuff up tomorrow, I dare you to do this: be a better citizen, be a better American. If you do and I do, we will all be better for it.