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Hey, hey TBD Fam!
It’s a holiday week here in the U.S. and if you, like me, don’t feel particularly celebratory celebrating the idea of “freedom” in a country when so many freedoms don’t exist, you’re not alone!
Since waking up to White Supremacy in 2016, I’ve been on a deliberate journey of redefining my relationship to the U.S.’s past & present while doing the inner work of staying steadfast to the possibility of a more equitable future.
In this episode, I’m taking you behind the scenes of my choice to abstain from celebrating the 4th of July and honor it instead. Plus, the work I’m doing in this season to maybe reclaim this holiday (still undecided) and most definitely the process of redefining patriotism.
Links mentioned in this episode:
Hello, hello friends and welcome back to the show! I’m coming your way from SC this week as I’m home visiting my family and I am definitely back in the hot, steamy South as we make our annual July trip back to the low-country to make some beach memories with my kiddos. This yearly trip has been one of my non-negotiables over the years so my kids have core memories making sandcastles, digging for periwinkles in the surf, crabbing with chicken thighs, boogie boarding through the waves, and having beach picnics just like I did growing up.
So every year, we make the trek back to South no matter where we’re living and it always makes my heart so happy to see palm trees swaying with the coastal wind, the smell of pluff mud & salt that hits you in the face in the most undeniable way, and the way the water sparkles amongst the marsh as you cruise over the intercoastal waterway.
Charleston will forever be the place I found myself, did some of my deepest healing from adolescence, experienced my first big loss of a good friend that completely ripped my heart out & altered my trajectory, and where I also met my husband that altered my trajectory even more with over 5 military moves now all over the U.S. Charleston was the city I chose to start to build my own life when I was 20 and like any good coming of age movie, every time I come back – I have a flood of old memories of some of my deepest heart-aches, deepest loves, and deepest reckonings of my soul. My family ended up moving down just a few years later and it’s been synonymous with “home” ever since. Until, of course, my little family finds our own place that’s home, wherever that may be.
For the past few years that we’ve been coming back, my early July trips have been marked with Independence Day and for the past 5 years, I’ve abstained from celebrating not really knowing how I felt about the holiday that centers around freedom when so many inequities & barriers to freedom still exist – and that was before so many big freedoms have recently been taken away.
2016 was the year I woke up to White Supremacy as Trump took office and the way this system is embedded in every single nook and cranny of our country, which sparked a long overdue internal reckoning. Much of my work that year was sussing out old religious trauma and why so many things started to make all new kinds of sense for the way Conservative Christianity especially, has been entrenched with so many ideals, philosophies, and beliefs that continue to uphold misogyny, xenophobia, and racial hierarchies.
But it wouldn’t be until two years later in 2018 that I started to realize the other places I had sought refuge, especially spirituality, were simply more of the same and there was so much more that I needed to reexamine and dismantle.
So for the past 5 years, for sure, plus a couple more where I didn’t feel particularly celebratory, the 4th of July has been this day I’ve wrestled with. “What exactly are we celebrating?”
What are we celebrating…
What makes this all the more complicated for my unique identity is being an active duty military spouse and being directly tied to a small, but still felt pressure of patriotism when I have a lot of dissonance about what it means to be an American.
I was bringing up these feelings in therapy this past week, which I’m glad I did because I’ve been clarifying how I want to teach my boys about this day – what it means and how we honor this holiday vs. celebrate it.
As I was talking about my conflicted feelings, my new therapist shared (with consent from her trans daughter) that the 4th is her daughter’s opportunity to take America back and celebrate it for what it can be, that the very holiday itself is a celebration of independence from Britain’s rule and everything the founding colonizers were seeking to get free from.
It’s a remembrance of resistance. And honestly, that’s the only thing I’ve resonated with for quite some time. Ibram Kendi’s article “What to an American is the Fourth of July?” brings that same sentiment that this day is a celebration of resistance and this is the most patriotic act we can take.
What I know is that our founding ideals of life, liberty, and a pursuit of happiness can only be as realized as we’re willing to dismantle the constructs that prioritize freedom for some while excluding them for others.
I want to believe this country can be one of the greatest countries in the world and in many ways I know we could have far fewer freedoms, but I made a vow long ago that I did NOT come here to live an “at least” life so nor do I give America an “at least it’s better than” kind of pass.
The 4th is a holiday of observance for me and as I see the fireworks go off tonight, I will remember that fire of resistance, that fire of hope for something better, that fire of resolve that this country was built on liberty and we have oh such a long way to go before that ideal is realized.
If you too struggle with this holiday, you’re not alone in that. I encourage you to follow thought leaders who are challenging the narratives, working toward change, and giving yourself permission to redefine what Patriotism means in the post-Trump era. And I’m certainly wishing you the courage to keep showing up even while your own clarity is still forming, trusting, knowing, believing the next right step is always on its way. See you soon!
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