Ah, Fourth of July: a day — well, a weekend — of beer and barbeques, of parades and fireworks, of outdoor celebrations and sales. (Yes, sales!) But before the “party” begins, there are a few things everyone should keep in mind, because, while Independence Day may just be summer’s biggest celebration, it is also an important day in America's history — and its entire history should not be forgotten. In fact, for that reason there are a few things all social media savvy Americans should avoid posting on Facebook on the Fourth of July, and the biggest one has to do with America’s most infamous catchphrase: “land of the free.”
As many already know, the Fourth of July is the day American colonists declared their independence from Great Britain, in 1776. It is the day America became a nation and became the "United States." And it is the day all colonists (well, all “men”) became free. But this “revolution” didn’t serve the needs of all men. This “revolution” didn’t mean all Americans were free. And in fact, now, nearly 240 years later, freedom and equal rights — the ideals this very country were founded on — remain elusive.
Liberty isn't for all.
As journalist Jonathan Turley explained in a 2012 op-ed piece on The Washington Post, there is a big problem with referring to America as “the land of the free:”
Even as we pass judgment on countries we consider unfree, Americans remain confident that any definition of a free nation must include their own — the land of free. Yet, the laws and practices of the land should shake that confidence. In the decade since Sept. 11, 2001, this country has comprehensively reduced civil liberties in the name of an expanded security state. The most recent example of this was the National Defense Authorization Act.
Turley went on to say:
Americans often proclaim our nation as a symbol of freedom to the world while dismissing nations such as Cuba and China as categorically unfree. Yet, objectively, we may be only half right. Those countries do lack basic individual rights such as due process, placing them outside any reasonable definition of 'free,' but the United States now has much more in common with such regimes than anyone may like to admit.
So while Americans may be freer than some of their international counterparts, with things like warrantless searches, arbitrary justice, and the right to continuously surveil any citizen, the idea that we are completely free is a myth.
What's more, while America's founding fathers fought for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” their fight wasn't for everyone. Because when the Declaration of Independence was drafted, it referred to men — and free white men, at that. (Many of the founding fathers were also slave owners.) And in many ways, the same holds true today because America is a country where women are still fighting for equal pay and where entire communities, races, and religions are fighting for equal opportunities. Additionally, in 2016, America is a country where some presidential candidates have built platforms based on denying rights to certain individuals because of their race or religion.
However, I should be very, very clear: I do appreciate our freedoms. I know that in America, I — a woman and a mother — have more rights than most, but "land of the free" is a bit of a misnomer because not all Americans are not all equal.
In 2016, not everyone in the great U.S. of A. is "free," and that's something Americans should try to remember while posting patriotic Facebook statuses.