Can there really be anything more American than the Fourth of July? Obviously it makes sense for it to be such a definitive American moment, what with it being our country’s birthday and everything, but we’ve really taken the whole concept to heart.
Sure, fireworks may be a Chinese invention, but the idea of blowing things up whilst holding a beer (fairly German, right?) in one hand and an apple pie (first found in Britain) in the other, eating hamburgers and hot dogs (both rather German, aren’t they?) while listening to The Star Spangled Banner (Hey, Francis Scott Key was American!) at high volume on our music device which was most certainly made somewhere overseas. Heck, Democracy first came about in Greece, cowboys originated in Spain, and French Fries are (wait for it…) from Belgium!
But these are just a few of the things many people see as being inseparably American. This cultural appropriation (to use an en vogue term) is commonplace within the history of the United States and the Fourth of July is a celebration of a moment in history where a population of people from incredibly disparate backgrounds determined that they wanted to become their own nation, their own community, something new built from many things that are incredibly old.
The term melting pot has been used to describe our country (although, it has recently been updated to the much more appropriate idea of a salad bowl) which is, in many ways, a showcase of how America likes to take in new cultures and make it part of their own…well…we used to anyways.
Our current string of nationalism isn’t anything new, but it’s certainly something which strikes hard on a day like our nation’s birthday. When the tired, poor, and/or huddled masses are no longer welcome, doesn’t that bring one to question the definition of our country?
Now, obviously, at some point there may be a need to limit how many of these masses we allow in. I’m not saying this definitively, by any means, but just as a philosophical concept. If all the masses are coming, at some point you’ll reach peak masses allowance. But I don’t believe that’s the case today. The case today is that we simply don’t want them. We fear them. Those same masses we sought to bring into our nation to allow for a better life are now seen as the masses which will bring us to ruin.
I’m not saying America has always met this ideal of accepting new cultures with open arms. Just saying the word slavery is a simple way to shoot down how this ideal has had its troubles. And our current views on groups like the Muslims isn’t anything new, considering items like how many Americans treated the Irish upon their initial arrivals on our soil.
We’ve failed on the ideal so many times.
But the ideal has nearly always been there.
This concept living in the heart of every American that if there is someone in need, we will offer our assistance.
Heck, one of the reasons our nation gives for a majority of our wars is that someone needed our help. Because we like to be the protector, the father figure, the socially responsible.
But today, I can’t help but feel America is straying from that ideal, that we are looking toward scrubbing ourselves of the old history of being the country that accepts everyone for who they are. We’ve become a nation focused on ourselves. And not of ourselves as in as a nation, but ourselves as in each person.
So, on the upcoming 241st birthday of our country, I offer you one thought as you blow up, drink, and eat: How do we want our country to act with regards to those in need? Do we turn our backs and suggest that we simply don’t have enough to share? Do we tell them the country’s full? Do we close our borders in fear because we simply aren’t strong enough?
Or do we face the need as our country has always pretended it will: with open arms willing to accept those who are simply looking for a place where they can have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
Have fun out there, and be safe!