I’m the asshole who roots for thunderstorms on the 4th of July. Not because of the unbridled passion for one’s country, but only the method by which we celebrate. As normal as explosions in one’s backyard would seem commonplace one fateful summer of 1776, as well as many before and after, the guidelines for living a rural colonial life as fetishized in our modern patriotic lexicon, the founders of our great nation could not possibly conceive of drafting utilizable legislation that could have real meaning 200+ years in the future. At the time the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, the fragile nation stood, bracing for conflict with much more to endure in the future. At one point they conceived of a bill of rights, which read like a demand note from a battered people fed up with the psychological torment of ‘at home’ warfare. “We the people…” “Certain inalienable rights…” “Endowed by their creator” words of a humanity unrecognized and torn literally during occupation and rebellion. The resource richness of the colonies too valuable to consider scorched earth tactics, so they resorted to blatant colonialism.
The right to free speech, to bear arms, to assemble, to own property, to the due process of justice, representation, and fair trial. And with the right to refuse soldiers quarter, the fledgling idea of the right to privacy. These are declared as rights by a people so besieged by these things that they needed to put it forth in an international document declaring self sovereignty.
We believe that we are human and have the right to tell Britain to fuck off. Sounds very underdog, mighty ducks style justice but really it was a bunch of people who snatched an opportunity from the dominant imperial power, and clunked along into the modern day. Assigning the moral superiority against the barbarism of the opposing force is the oldest ploy in humanity.
Could our founding fathers, whose primary experience for self governance stem from colonial warfare and land ownership in, what was at the time, a relatively sparsely populated frontier, have truly foreseen the densely populated infrastructure that the future would hold? To conceive of an industrial revolution, let alone a digital era? It’s unlikely, and even if they could, it was hardly in the forefront of the minds of those crafting a document which allowed these “inalienable rights” to white male landowners. When considering “we the people” excluded so many, like slaves and women and indigenous people, it’s plausible to put forth the more obvious idea that this was to benefit the colonies way more from a financial standpoint than one opposing human rights violations. That said, the less well known stories of how colonial patriots were persecuted long after the war ended, England extracted her revenge where she could. The nation was hardly entirely patriots and pockets of loyalists took out their grievances on their behalf. How cruel a time it must have been to endure. You do all the right things, you vote and fight and defend what’s yours and you come home when it’s all over, and some asshole with a grudge takes their revenge. Really awful stuff, to die for your beliefs. I’ve made some tough choices but I’ve never had to live in fear of someone coming into my home and murdering me and my family for it.
Truly anyone who gives their life on behalf of their nation and their ideals deserves our honor and respect. It’s the gamble we take, to stand for something. The chances we take to stand up, to say, “I will go” and fight a war for this idea, that for the love of one’s country, I will fight, and I may die. To see through to the end, through the horror of men, to maybe come out the other side a different person than the one who went in, for this idea, of freedom, of democracy, yes. Could I? No. I don’t believe I’d have it in me.
But to those that can, that have, that did, yours is a greater patriotism than mine. The vacancy of your loss is heavy on my soul, of our collective souls. And that is why I root for thunderstorms on the 4th of July, because the sounds of explosions is more memory than I can bear.