I always think it’s a little bit cliche when people say “Happy Birthday America!” It’s not that I’m not patriotic. I’m just not fond of the phrase or the pictures that usually accompany it because it mocks the true meaning of the Fourth of July.
My problem with “Happy Birthday America”—and a common bad habit in my own generation—is people say things they don’t necessarily mean. In particular I’m thinking of the pictures that flooded my Instagram feed featuring barbecue, fireworks and swimming suits and a quote about how great freedom is. How does a hamburger and potato salad have anything to do with Americans earning their country’s freedom? The sacrilege of it just about chokes me.
With the case of these kinds of photos and the overplaying of twangy, cheesy patriotic music this time of year, the message is good. It’s the delivery that’s poor.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the United States is a great place to live compared with most of the world, and I’m grateful to live here. I just don’t think the right way to celebrate that is by gorging myself on barbecue and lighting controlled explosives.
To me, celebrating the founding fathers’ declaration of their independence from England should be a little more solemn of an occasion. While it should be a day of celebration, the Fourth of July should also be a time to remember those responsible for our freedom.
In fifth grade, my family lost one of my uncles to the battle for continued freedom for ourselves and others around the world. While he died in Iraq in March, the Fourth of July also seems like an appropriate time to remember and pay tribute to his sacrifice and the sacrifice of so many other young men and women in the pursuit of freedom.
Seeing as how everyone gets the day off of work for the Fourth, it seems like an appropriate time to honor and remember those who are gone with those who still remain.
It might sound like I’m saying that having fun on the Fourth of July is disrespectful. That’s not what I’m saying at all. It’s the raucous “fun” induced by overconsumption of alcohol and fireworks I would rather do without.
The Fourth of July is meant to be a celebration of freedom and a time to honor those who gave all they could in its pursuit. Spending time with family and having fun is great, but it’s best to remember why and in whose honor we’re celebrating.