Most people know that the Rant-ress isn’t a huge fan of holidays mainly because they’re an excuse for thoughtless—then reckless—indulgent actions instead of merrymaking. We’re a country of extremism; that’s not fun.
For me, no holiday epitomizes this like the Fourth of July. From the environmental impacts of fire-starting, spewing toxic chemicals by the millions of pounds into the air, waterways, earth, to damaging wildlife, frightening little kids and animals, spawning burns and activating PTSD in soldiers and others—what are we doing?
- Total amount of fireworks used: 285.3 million pounds
- Consumer fireworks used: 260.7 million pounds
- Display fireworks used: 24.6 million pounds
Science editor Russell McLendon writes, “Fireworks get their flamboyance from a variety of chemicals, many of which are toxic to humans. From the gunpowder that fuels their flight to the metallic compounds that color their explosions, fireworks often contain carcinogenic or hormone-disrupting substances that can seep into soil and water, not to mention the lung-clogging smoke they release and plastic debris they scatter.”
Almost half the fires started around July 4th are firework related, which translates: we could have half as many fires if we didn’t replicate “bombs bursting in air.”
And then there’s the issue of who was set free. Not women. Not black slaves. Not child workers. Not pagans. Not native Indians.
Black people didn’t get ‘freedom’ until 1865. The incomparable Frederick Douglass spoke on 5 July 1852, “What To The Slave Is the Fourth of July? :
“…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 denunciations 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…more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States.”
Women didn’t get the vote until 1920; they didn’t have the right to their own property or finances until around 1900. They may not have been bought and sold on a slave block but they were traded like chattel, often beaten and made to work long hours without pay. Sounds like slavery to me.
Simplistically, the Colonialists (pause at what that definition means) almost exterminated the native people of the Americas.
So while revering this jingoistic holiday in drunken, stoned, gluttonous glory, if you aren’t a white adult male, remember that you have little to celebrate.
All we have are our stories. When those stories are based on lies and hypocrisy, they continue to harm. Let’s “green up” this holiday and not glorify war. Ditch the “bombs bursting,” and step into a more peaceful inclusive paradigm, one recognizing all races and genders—and their accrued pain—acknowledge other species’ torment and have deep consideration for Mother Earth at large.