I hate the 4th of July, and for some pretty good reasons. Please don't misunderstand. It's not that I hate America, although sometimes I do hate our government and its policies, the racial, gender, social, and economic disparity experienced by its citizens, and the current administration. It's just that I don't feel like celebrating our country right now, and honestly, I hate most of the traditions that go along with it. There are actually many reasons I'm not celebrating the 4th of July this year, both silly and serious, but all legit.
Most of the time, I feel lucky and privileged to have been born in the United States. I appreciate the efforts of our founding fathers to try to create their Utopian version of a country where "all men are created equal," and further attempts throughout our country's history to make "all men" actually mean "all people," both successful and unsuccessful. We are so not there yet, and in the past few months we seem to be sliding backwards.
Then there's the fact that, as a mom on 4th of July, I am a ball of anxiety and a major buzz kill. I hate standing outside in hot weather and getting covered in mosquito bites, while literally handing my kids fire and explosives on purpose, and then having to manage their fun like a helicopter mom so they don't hurt themselves or each other. I hate crowds, traffic, and loud noises, so going to the city fireworks display is no fun either. Also, I have a baby. That means that I am likely to be up with him well past our town's midnight cut off for setting off fireworks, because no one listens to the rules.
So, If you need me on the 4th, I will be hiding under a blanket with my baby, unapologetically eating apple pie and refusing to join the celebratory festivities. Here are a few reasons why:
Because I Hate The Noise
I hate loud noises, especially ones that sound like gunfire. If it's bad for me, I can't imagine how hard it must be for combat veterans (or anyone else) with PTSD. It also sucks for people with dogs, people with little kids, and people who are sensitive to noise, and for a variety of reasons. I know fireworks are an important part of celebrating on the 4th, but if someone asks you to stop past bedtime, or posts a yard sign letting you know that they can't handle the noise, try to be kind and have a little empathy. After all, being a good neighbor is part of being a good American.
Because I Hate Crowds
I freaking hate crowds, so driving to the city fireworks display means either chasing my kids around in the dark for hours outside, or sitting in a parked car listening to them complain about not being able to see, or about being hungry, tired, itchy, scared, or having to go to the bathroom. No thanks.
Because I Have A Baby
Because Fireworks Are Dangerous
I give you permission to read this in your mother's voice, because I'm about to go full-on mama bear when I tell you that fireworks are ridiculously dangerous. I have plenty of personal anecdotes to demonstrate that fact (sparkler burn of 1985, I am talking about you), but professionals agree. According to the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks are so dangerous they've caused 15,600 fires and 11,900 injuries requiring a trip to the emergency room in 2015, with 42 percent of those injuries to children and teens. Also, loud fireworks displays can actually damage babies' hearing. Yikes.
Because I'm Broke
Fireworks are expensive. When I was a kid (I can't believe I just wrote those words), you could buy a bag-full of black cats for $1.00. Now, it will cost at least $20.00 to keep a kid busy for an hour while you try to prevent injuries, sunburns, and chase away mosquitoes the size of small birds. Time to find some alternatives, because fireworks are not fun for moms.
Because It's Mosquito Season
The mosquitoes are so bad this year. I am likely to spend the day reapplying bug repellent to myself and my kids, but get bitten up anyway, despite smelling like a DEET factory or a citronella candle. At least I wouldn't be getting any sleep regardless and because of the noise. Time to stock up on anti-itch cream.
Because America Is A Dumpster Fire
No matter how many times American President 45 says that he wants to "make America great again," it doesn't seem like "great" applies to everyone. It's hard to celebrate an America where there are news reports of discrimination and violence against people of color every day, where state and federal bills are chipping away at reproductive choices, and I can't pay my medical bills without taking out a personal loan (seriously, you guys). I’m over here thinking that we need to make America great for everyone, but I'm not seeing that happen without some serious changes from the top down and across the country. The best way I can celebrate that American dream is by voting, being politically active, and possibly running for office myself, not by setting off fireworks.
Because All Americans Haven't Achieved Equality
The America I envision celebrates diversity, not just independence. That means freedom and equal rights for everyone, including people of color, women, immigrants, members of LGBTQIA communities, people who are poor, people with disabilities, atheists, Muslims, and so many other people who often have no voice or place at the policy table. We have a lot of work to do before the "independence" in "Independence Day" is a reality for everyone.
Because Patriotism Is Not Something I Want My Kids To Celebrate
We live in an amazing time when movements like Black Lives Matter and intersectional feminism allow us white people, if we are willing to listen, to learn about the white-washing of American history and the importance of using our privilege to help change the world. I want to raise my kids to recognize (and check) their privilege and have the right kind of American values — equality, justice, feminism, and independence for all, not just a privileged few.
Because our family is privileged in so many ways, I need to teach them to recognize injustice and inequality when it happens and to not celebrate a system that benefits a few over the many. With that in mind, I don't really feel like celebrating the 4th of July this year, and would like you to consider not celebrating, too. Let's start some new traditions. Pie, microbrews, and political activism sounds like a great place to start.