“To the American slave, what is your 4th of July? A day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.”
~ Frederick Douglass , July 5, 1852
It’s a sad fact that virtually every U.S. federal holiday celebrates colonialism, slave-owning presidents, regressive religions, or outright genocide – July 4th is no different. Only one of our holidays celebrates a American of morality and virtue who fought against such tyranny. We are an imperialist nation, constantly at war, where white supremacy and male dominance brutalizes domestically and globally. So what are we really celebrating for?
Many years ago in film school, some comrades and I shot a short documentary asking that very question. Many strangers we interviewed cited the army, the troops, vague ideas about what freedoms they believed they enjoyed – it seemed as though the militarization of the everyday had perverted July 4th into just another day to bolster nationalist pride. Nevermind that America’s declaration of independence was made without armed aggression. Great Britain didn’t even find out for another month.