Independence Day. The Fourth of July. The date every year when the United States celebrates its independence from England. And according to some, also liberals, Socialists, Mexicans, China, tea parties, taxes, Indians, tree-huggers, Muslims, the Pope, the Irish, Bolsheviks, and whoever or whatever else has been the subject of American nationalistic vilification at some point over the past two centuries. It must’ve been a really productive day.
July 4, 1776, despite the grand annual picture we paint, was itself fairly anticlimactic: on that day, the text of the Declaration of Independence was merely finalized, adopted by the Continental Congress, and sent to the printers; that only matters historically because the rebel Colonists managed to outlast the Brits in the ensuing war. Nevertheless, over time it became the day when Americans celebrated the birth of their nation with barbecue pulled-pork sandwiches, copious potato salad, trite country music, miniature bombs, and gaudy parades. At the same time, it has also been a day on which nationalists tried to find ways of lumping their ideological opponents into the category of “oppressors,” “enemies,” or generally just people from whom we “need independence.” It’s really quite efficient: capture the poetic spirit of resistance and rebellion and then re-appropriate it to current ideological squabbles. Predictably, the downside is that it really doesn’t work that way. Continue reading