“What are you doing for July 4th?” This is a question that has been sprung upon me countless times in the last thirty years. I was not born in the United States and came here as a student in my early twenties, so it did take a few years for that question to sink in.
I was simply aware that America observes July 4 as its Independence Day. I barely knew about the euphoria that surrounds this holiday. As the years went by and my husband and I settled down in this country, I became aware of the fanfare associated with this event. Now this is something that I ask others as well: if they have anything special planned out.
Personal finance website WalletHub provides key holiday facts which are interesting, or should I say overwhelming? Americans plan to spend $7.7 billion on 4th of July food and more than $1.4 billion on beer and wine. Approximately 47.9 million people are expected to travel and spend the day away from home, and 59% will attend a picnic. The estimated amount spent on fireworks in 2021 was more than $2.4 billion dollars, and I believe that this year’s spending will be just as grand!
On the eve of Independence Day, a few thoughts randomly came to me. It is not unusual to think about freedom because it is the core concept in mind while celebrating a country’s independence.
The US, being a melting pot of cultures, has embraced immigrants from all over the world. I still maintain that home is where the heart is. With my family thousands of miles away, my ties with India will never weaken. I miss the place where my roots are. But this nation has given me a lot, and I need to be grateful to its people for accepting me and for facilitating this playground in which to keep my identity intact.
With an open mind, I have kept my culture alive and practiced my religion without fear. This is my point of view, and I am confident that many others will be on the same page as me.
Citing just one instance, I would like to share how Diwali is celebrated at a particular temple in the Atlanta suburbs. It is now a yearly custom for the local mayor to come and inaugurate the ceremony. The national anthem of India is played amongst a teeming multitude of people spanning all generations. At that moment, one hardly feels that it is not the place in which they were born and raised.
While I appreciate the goodness around me, it also pains me to see the ugliness hidden in plain sight. We talk about diversity and acceptance, yet injustice lurks in the shadows, rearing its fearsome head. If fairness was universal, would the “Black Lives Matter” movement even surface? Why would minorities be marginalized, and why would hate crimes occur?
When practically all human lives were already at stake in the wake of COVID-19, it is heartbreaking that George Floyd had to lose his life only because of the color of his skin. That too at the hands of those who were supposed to protect him.
I have never demonstrated any political affiliation by openly being a Democrat or a Republican, and I have steered away from making any political posts. However, I can’t stay away from touching upon the most recent Supreme Court decision which overturned the 1973 landmark case Roe v. Wade. The court ruled that the right to have an abortion is not enshrined in the US Constitution. This judgment can only be described in one word: “regressive”. How can we talk about feminism and female empowerment when women do not even have the right to make their own decisions about their own reproductive health?
The tumultuous Supreme Court decision came ten days prior to the festivities that the country is preparing to celebrate its freedom. What independence we are talking about remains the nagging issue!
Like any other year, the stage is set for the joyous occasion. But many questions remain unanswered. Does liberty exist, and are we citizens blessed with all social, political, and economic rights and privileges as the term suggests? We need to seriously ponder over this, for July 4 is much more than those fun-filled picnics, the scrumptious BBQ meals, and the dazzling fireworks that light up the evening sky!