lIndependence Day arrives at a time when the United States is rocked by hearings over the January 6 insurgency, awash with commotion over high court rulings on abortion and guns and struggling to maintain the common bonds that hold it together.
But many also see reason to celebrate: The pandemic continues to wane and American democracy survives despite its mistakes.
“I think many of us are conflicted about celebrating the 4th of July right now,” Amelia Boone, obstacle racing champion and lawyer, tweeted as the week gave way to the long holiday weekend.
In her view, patriotism is also about fighting for change, she said, adding, “I’m not giving up on the US.”
That sentiment will no doubt be shared by millions who will be celebrating the country’s 246th anniversary and the anniversary of its independence from English rule on Monday.
Read more: Juneteenth’s Vision of Freedom Expresses American Values Better Than Fourth of July’s
It’s a day to retire from work, flock to parades, devour hot dogs and burgers at backyard barbecues, and gather under a canopy of stars and exploding fireworks — in many cases for the first time in three years amid of easing precautions against the coronavirus.
Baltimore, for example, resumes Independence Day celebrations after a two-year hiatus, much to the delight of residents like Steven Williams.
“I used to be there every year. Then it stopped,” Williams told WBAL-TV. “I haven’t seen them in a few years.”
Colorful displays, large and small, will light up the night sky in cities from New York to Seattle and Chicago to Dallas. But others, especially in drought-stricken and wildfire-prone regions of the West, will leave them out.
Phoenix is also going without fireworks again – not because of the pandemic or fire, but because of supply chain problems.
Read more: How fireworks became a Fourth of July tradition
At emotional ceremonies across the country, some newer residents will take the oath of citizenship, allowing them to vote for the first time in the upcoming midterm elections.
Certainly, these are precarious times: An economic recession is looming and the national psyche is still raw from mass shootings such as those recently witnessed at a Texas elementary school and a New York grocery store.
Sharp social and political divisions have also been exposed by recent Supreme Court decisions that overturn the constitutional right to abortion and repeal a New York law restricting who can carry a gun in public.
But for many, July 4 is also an opportunity to put aside political differences and celebrate unity, reflecting on the revolution that gave rise to history’s longest-lived democracy.
Read more: Fourth of July is America’s Birthday, but Constitution Day marks coming of age
Eli Merritt, a political historian at Vanderbilt University whose forthcoming book describes the fraught foundation of the United States in 1776, said that “there is always something to divide or unite us.”
But he sees the January 6 hearings on last year’s storming of the US Capitol as a cause for hope, an opportunity to rally behind democratic institutions. While not all Americans or their elected representatives agree with the committee’s work, Merritt is encouraged by the fact that it is at least somewhat bipartisan and some Republicans are on board.
“Moral courage as a locus for Americans to establish hope,” he said, “the willingness to stand up for what is right and true despite negative consequences for themselves. That is an essential glue of constitutional democracy.”
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