College Women (Who Aren't Feeling Particularly ~Patriotic~) On How They Observe Fourth Of July

It’s Independence Day 2018, but given the current ever-scary political dialogue, the Fourth of July can take on a different connotation this year, especially for some people. As migrant children are still allegedly being separated from their legal guardians, it can seem humorlessly ironic to celebrate the United States’ independence when some people still aren’t granted freedom. To find out how college-aged women are celebrating their 4th of July festivities amid the on-going vexing news cycle, we asked college women and recent graduations their opinion of Independence Day this year—and it got intense.

Prior to the Fourth of July celebrations, Gallup published a study to see how Americans would rank their patriotism. The study notes that American pride has been on a steady decline since 2014, with 2018 being a record low for prideful Americans (or lack thereof, tbh).

The poll adds that only 47 percent of U.S. residents said that they were “extremely proud” to be American. As the study notes, Democrats were less likely to say they were proud to be American. Gallup also reports that American pride in college graduates has drastically decreased (by 12 percent) since last year.

Since Independence Day is not only meant to commemorate the United States’ freedom and it’s also used to celebrate American patriotism (typically through elaborate displays of fireworks), we asked some college-aged women what they thought of Independence Day. American pride and Independence Day are often interconnected, and it could lead to a connection between why so many Americans are statistically less proud to be Americans.

After all, some college students and recent graduates are reexamining their outlook on the traditional Independence Day celebration.

You know: the traditional fireworks, barbeques, parades and general festivities that you typically use to celebrate the States’ independence but also your freedom to spend quality time with your family.  Since migrant units are actively being disembodied at the U.S.-Mexico border, some students believe the current political climate might disenfranchise the overall unity of the holiday, which typically brings families together.

Her Campus Intern and sophomore at Barnard College Erica Kam says that she hasn’t really been a devout Independence Day celebrator. However, she notes that—despite the current political BS—the U.S. has historically always infringed on other peoples’ rights and human beings (especially people of color).

“I definitely understand why people would think this year’s 4th of July celebrations should be different to reflect the current political climate (i.e. we shouldn’t be celebrating America when America is ‘like this’), but I think it’s important to recognize that America has kind of always been ‘like this,’ even before Trump or the recent headlines—considering our country has a history of slavery, colonialism, internment camps for Japanese-Americans, etc., is it ‘correct’ to ever have celebrated our country and the so-called commitment to ‘freedom?’ I’ve never been super into 4th of July celebrations, and that isn’t going to change this year,” Erica continues.

Seeing as the U.S. has a lengthy history of oppressing, imprisoning and enslaving people of culture, it’s easy to see why a lot of people have disconnected from the proposed significance behind Independence Day well before the current political environment. After all, the U.S. (and many other colonized countries) have historically always been “like this," regardless of what American Exceptionalist teachings might say.

Though it’s important to remember that the U.S. has a history of subjecting marginalized individuals to abuse, some students are using the current political atmosphere (coupled with the polluted atmosphere that has been brewing for centuries) to disassociate from the Fourth of July’s significance, which can be critical for your personal mental health.

And some students aren't looking at the holiday any different than years past. 

Makena Gera, a Her Campus Intern and a sophomore at Marist College, says, “The Fourth of July for me and my family has always been about going to the beach, having a cookout and watching fireworks. I've never really thought of it on a level any deeper than that. I've never spent the Fourth really reflecting on the history of our country, so even though right now the current state of our country upsets me, I'm not seeing the holiday any differently than I used to.”

It’s perfectly acceptable to treat any holiday at the surface level, in this case: a way to spend quality time with your family. (After all, gatekeeping is a gross habit, and we can’t really gate-keep how anyone celebrates a holiday.) Even if a holiday is teeming with problematic timeline blunders, spending time with your family and getting the heck out of work can be beneficial to your mental health and it especially crucial given the current legislature and newsworthy happenings (that shouldn’t be happening to begin with).

“Maybe I should spend more time thinking about everything that the holiday stands for, but since I never have in the past, I'm not really thinking about it in a political way now. Maybe it's privileged of me to not really appreciate the freedom that the holiday stands for because there are so many people that are right now dying for the freedom that I have. I know I should think about it differently, but because I was never really encouraged to think about it in that way, I just see it as a day for a barbeque,” Makena says.  

Conversely, for some college-aged women, it’s impossible to escape the severity of the news surrounding the separated migrant children. Recent graduate of Iowa State University Alex McGuire says, “For me, I’m using it as a day to be grateful for the family I get to have in contrast to what the government is going to families daily. As a non-white person, I’ve found myself having nightmares that the police will just suddenly become suspicious of my siblings and separate us for no defined amount of time.”

For people of color, the traumas that currently impact migrant children, parents and families can cause vicarious mental health issues and Post-traumatic stress and anxiety for many people of color. People of color are already more susceptible to PTSD from racist attacks, and the current racist attack on Mexican migrants can create an unhealthy amount of emotional and mental distress for people of color—even if they are citizens of the United States.  

But maybe you can reclaim Fourth of July for the America you want to believe in.

Utilizing the Fourth of July as a way to tend to your mental health can be a way to internally redefine the holiday, and its potentially problematic traditions, for yourself and your family. If the current news cycle is causing you or your family and an unhealthy amount of mental fatigue, it's totally fair for you to celebrate (or not celebrate) Independence Day in less exhausting ways — whatever that means for you, personally.

It’s important to recognize that one of the most critical forms of activism is genuine self-care. (Because without your mental health, you can't advocate for the movements that impassion you.)

And, of course, what could be more patriotic than using Fourth of July holiday to protesting, engaging with Democracy and giving back to the community?

Though the current political climate could contribute to students’ apathy (or increased apathy for the holiday) or general distress, some students believe that Fourth of July can be used a vehicle to unite U.S. residents.

“I think 4th of July is a great time to highlight how Americans can come together as a nation. We all have one thing in common, we live in America and that’s what I’ll be celebrating. I’m also a sucker for hot dogs and fireworks,” Sierra Clair, a student at Loyola Marymount University says.

Although the Fourth of July has the potential to unite Americans, or at least unite families that still have the luxury to actually be with their kin during this holiday, sometimes divergence can lead to unity.

Especially as the debate over immigration and what it means for United States to grant individuals citizenship or asylum, U.S. citizens are redirecting their frustration about this harmful decree by protesting. There are a lot of ways to use your voice and freedom to combat the separation of children from their parents. In particular, protests can yield productive and unifying results. Historically, protests have changed U.S. history. (Don't ever let anyone disparage the power of student protests, just FYI.)

Whether you have plans for Independence Day or not, you can use your activism this Fourth of July weekend by contributing to one of the dozens of unifying movements to reunite migrant families.

Channeling your lack of pride this Independence Day to ensure that everyone in the U.S. has access to freedom can be an indirect method to amplify your own potentially wavering pride.