What does Independence Day even mean?

What does Independence Day even mean?

There have been times in my life when I wished I wasn’t American. When I was younger and living abroad, I would easily get embarrassed by being associated with the loud, obnoxious, poorly dressed stereotype. I cringed when I saw those living stereotypes on the streets of Europe. I wanted to be chic and cultured and have a rad accent. And probably say rad less.

And there are times where I do not feel a sense of pride when I think of being American. Uber-patriotic holidays, like Independence Day, also serve as a reminders for the many that paid a heavy price so the United States could be what it is today. All the Native Americans who died from disease or fighting so the colonists could build their farms and cities. The fact that when the Declaration of Independence was signed, slavery was still very much part of the landscape and would be for almost another hundred years.

But I no longer wish I didn’t fall into the American category. Through my travels and experiences, I’ve realized how lucky I am to have been born here and call this country my home. The sheer ability I have to take my passport and go is amazing. Like many modern nations, the US has a troubling past, particularly related to power and the means to get or maintain it. But the fact that we are able to learn and speak about it freely is remarkable. I also appreciate the continuous evolution of the United States- to me this is a country of change and progress. The diversity, both in people and environment, we have access to is incredible and not to be wasted.

I especially think of the stories I know of the women in my family- stories of embracing opportunities and risks to build careers for themselves, of pursuing education, of planning the families and lives they envisioned. At risk for overgeneralizing, I do get the sense that many American women do have more of a confidence and boldness than women from other parts of the world. Gender equality certainly isn’t perfect here, but the development of strong women is something to be proud of.

We truly set the tone for much of the rest of the world- the US’s reach cannot be denied. American pop culture is truly a uniting force for people everywhere I’ve been. I may not have a good grasp on a country’s politics or economic system, but I will inevitably get into a discussion with someone about their favorite Hollywood movies or television actors. (Joan Cusack, if you’re reading this, you have some big fans in Peru. BIG fans.)

As globalization makes the world smaller and smaller, how cool to know that it’s our ideas and creativity that are influencing billions. It makes the name Independence Day seem funny. Are any of us (countries, governments, people, etc.) completely independent? The United States is not a perfect place, but we still have much to celebrate as it continues to change to better live up to the ideals of equality, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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