Opinion: So, why are we celebrating the Fourth of July again?

“I'm just a bit confused about why Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, but I really can’t blame our citizens. We’ve forgotten the true meaning of the holiday, and that’s no one’s fault but time itself,” writes News Editor Regina Holloway.

Photo+by+Alex+Liscio.+

Photo by Alex Liscio.

Regina Holloway, News Editor

Independence Day seems to be surrounded by a lot of misconceptions. This seems fair, given the 244 years between the holiday’s fruition and today. However, there are some facts that seem prevalent to the celebrations that Americans inevitably partook in, and frankly, they can’t be forgotten anymore. 

But why are we celebrating today? Why, in 2020, do we have any reason to feel that we are commemorating our freedom, that we have grown in our freedom, that the great nation of America that finally gained its freedom in 1781 is the same great nation today that is cinching freedom for every one of its citizens? Because this wasn’t true when we wrote the Declaration of Independence, and it isn’t true now.

I’m just a bit confused about why Americans celebrate the Fourth of July. We’ve forgotten the true meaning of the holiday, and that’s no one’s fault but time itself.

The Fourth of July, despite all of our best intentions, is not the celebration of our independence. It can’t be, not when American citizens aren’t all protected nor free. It has turned into a showboat to boast our pride as Americans, while turning a blind eye to the principles of our country that have fallen by the wayside. 

Stuck in Bondage

As of Feb. 2020, There are 218 immigration detention centers in this country, nine of which exclusively hold children under the age of 18. Six out of nine of these child detention centers are required to hold children for a maximum of 72 hours. The rest can keep children for months on end with no legal ramifications. 71 percent of these detention centers are private prisons, which are for-profit institutions that are funded by third-party organizations. 

These institutions make more money the more people they imprison, and do not have to reveal where this money is going. Despite the illegal actions of their parents, these children are innocent in the proceedings of their journey to a better life. Yet, they are not free.

Private prisons in general house approximately 128,063 people as of 2016 and the treatment of all of these prisoners are relatively unknown. There are some reports of underfed prisoners, prisoners in private institutions are on average incarcerated twice as long as those in a public facility, and violent incidents/guard assaults are 49 percent higher in private facilities versus public. 

Statistics and reports on both private prisons and detention centers are slim to none on both the official ICE and private facilities websites. These prisoners, though they were convicted of crimes, can be subjected to any amount of mistreatment and violence that we are unaware of, and it is still legal. These prisoners are not free.

An Unjust Government

Our legislative and judicial branches are not equally proportionate in terms of gender, and yet there are still restrictive laws on women and their reproductive rights, a gap in pay between genders, and no amendment to the constitution that states that women are equals to men and people of color. Women, despite their right to vote, their right to their own property, their right to an education, and so many more are still underrepresented. They still are not equal, and it is still an uphill battle to be heard in the same way that their male counterparts are. Women in America are still not free. 

Our Scrambled History Lessons

One misuse of the holiday is that the Fourth of July celebrates our veterans. Now make no mistake, those who enlist or are drafted into our military both today and nearly 245 years ago deserve recognition every single day for the bravery, intelligence and perseverance they give to our country to protect it. But the specific holiday to commemorate our soldiers both old and new is Veterans Day, Nov. 11. 

This is because on November 11, 1918, we finally ended “the war to end all wars” World War I, and we use it to this day to celebrate and remember all of the soldiers that gave their all to achieve victory,  our soldiers who are still Missing in Action, and our Prisoners of War. It is foolhardy to specifically honor our veterans on July 4, because that is not what it is for.

The Battle We Have Not Won

Finally, and most important of all, our President himself has stated that he is desperate and dedicated to ending the “War with Coronavirus”, while we continue to have government-issued celebrations of the Fourth of July that do not require any social distancing or face coverings while in attendance. This war that we are in with COVID-19 is not over. As of 7:15 p.m. on the Fourth of July, there were 2.89 million cases of coronavirus across our country. 

That’s 2.89 million soldiers in Coronavirus’ trenches, his prisoners of war, and he keeps taking more. Not to mention the 132,000 American people who lost their lives to this virus already. These individuals, young and old, healthy and predisposed, all fought and are fighting with all of the rebellious spirit in them to survive the odds, to beat Coronavirus. They want to win the war, but it’s a losing battle. Why are we celebrating with uninhibited jubilation when our war still isn’t over? When our people aren’t free? 

So What Are We Really Doing?

This day, this commemoration of history, is one which reflects the fight in American veins to do what they must to obtain their freedom. It reminds us that we got angry, we got loud, and we got violent when talks of peace were not enough. It is the start of a long road on the path to freedom. But we as American people seem to forget that that same road is still being traveled. 

Even ignoring the nonsensical killings of black men, women, and children since before the Declaration was even signed, we are still not free. Even ignoring the LGBTQ+ youth that are being slaughtered, displaced, and forcefully converted, we are still not free. Even ignoring the hundreds of thousands of children in the foster care system that is severely under-equipped to protect and nurture these children, we are still not free. Yet, we are not fighting. 

We as a nation are not coming together to push against the adversary, whoever it may be. We as a whole are not angry or loud. We, instead, decided to pitch our tents, man our grills, and buy our fireworks. We are not free, and we are not trying. We are doing nothing to commemorate the spirit of our predecessors, and we have lost sight of what it means to celebrate the Fourth. 

Regina Holloway is the news editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email her at [email protected].