It’s arguably the most famous breakup ever. Two countries with so much history. A love story destined for disaster. Maybe it was never meant to be. Maybe America just wanted to explore and see what the untamed land in the West held. It’s true, some relationships never last.
They’d been together for so long many believed they were inseparable, but eventually America and the British grew apart and each wanted something different. America was a free spirit the British tried to contain until a bunch of old white men crafted a breakup letter, cementing the separation as something neither could come back from. Then the breakup turned ugly. There was a lot of fighting, but eventually, America proved that it’s a strong and independent country who doesn’t need a boyfriend like the British controlling them anymore. The country that was never truly its own separate entity, finally became one. They had their freedom. They had all the land that wasn’t theirs in front of them.
That’s the quick history of it, our Independence Day.
We have celebrated this separation every year since, but exactly how we relish the end of America’s relationship with the British varies, and our memory of why this holiday exists seems to be fading.
We celebrate this breakup with fireworks, extravagant shows that send dogs into howls and plenty to the hospital with one or two less fingers. The charcoal grills are fired up. What’s more American than encased mystery meat jammed into a bun? We jump into pools and pretend not to pee in them. Beers are cracked open. Baseball is watched. We drink a little too much and argue with our uncles about politics. We pretend we are celebrating the day this country was formed for all the right reasons.
There is no right way to celebrate. There are plenty of stereotypes about what exactly the Fourth of July should look like for many Americans, yet this doesn’t have to be the case. Independence Day can look like whatever you possibly want it to.
For many the Fourth of July is recognized as a day of leisure. Everyone is free to do whatever they please, lounge around and drink and stay as supine as they possibly can. Gravitate to the fridge and back to the couch. Try not to leave the house unless it is absolutely necessary. It’s just a random day off at the start of July. They’re thankful this breakup happened simply because they don’t have to go into work on a Tuesday.
Then there’s the patriot way. Those who savor the day and all the glory it wields. They themselves roam around in the sun with a drink in their hand. They let their pale skin brighten into a hue of cherry red that will be noticeable from a mile away. They grill and celebrate and watch those around them soak in the fun. They wish everyday could be like this, absolute freedom at the tips of their fingers.
This is a great way to celebrate. I tip my hat to everyone who wakes up on the Fourth with an American flag tied to their back like a cape. If this is the way they want to celebrate this breakup, like America’s best friend who has held such disdain for their friend’s ex and feel the urge to let this emotion be known, then they’re doing a great job.
There are, of course, plenty of people who find themselves in between these two sides of the celebratory spectrum. Neither leisure nor dedicated patriot. Firmly planted in the middle, a participant. They dig through their closets to find a shirt with the American flag plastered somewhere on it, something that does not see the light of day unless it’s the Fourth. They follow the crowd. They simply skim the surface of the outlandish festivities this day has to offer. The thought of this being a breakup worthy of celebration doesn’t seem to cross their minds.
Maybe since the breakup occurred in 1776 we don’t really seem to recognize this is what the day is truly about anymore. The Fourth has become synonymous as a day where Americans should behave a certain way. We’re believed to observe what so many have fought to protect in an exaggerated fashion. That everyone should rise and salute the sky and sing the national anthem.
In reality, celebrating Independence day means we are all allowed to act as American as we possibly want. And what’s more American than having the freedom to be lazy, to be uncomfortably patriotic, to be planted right in the middle as just another cog in the machine? That’s freedom: doing whatever you really want to.
Remember the breakup. America and Great Britain still have this deep-rooted connection even as our ways of life have strayed. We’re always there for each other in our times of need. It’s akin to a first love. We’ll always have the Colonies!
Remember all the other ways we fought to keep this country the way it is, even if it’s not perfect still to this day. There will always be different opinions, but don’t let someone who doesn’t leave their bed or a neighbor who maims half of his hand with a firecracker make you believe the Fourth should be celebrated differently than how you want it to be. Like America and the British, some people just aren’t meant to be together.
Enjoy the freedom. Remember the greatest breakup ever. Enjoy the Tuesday off.