Thoughts on the 4th of July

Gardens:_Shelburne_FarmsThe July 4th holiday has past, last night’s fireworks following a torrent of rain from an impressive thunderstorm. For a few days I have been thinking about the strange, or perhaps, not so strange, tension July 4th holds for me. My parents, as far as I know, did not face the holiday with the same discomfort, my father, in particular, taking great pride in his thirty years of military service.

I’ve been puzzling over what it is, exactly, that I find so discomforting. Perhaps I am most concerned by what is absent from the day: the simple fact that the colonists were as motivated by a desire to take more Native land as by their frustration with British taxes. The founding fathers greatly disliked any constraints on westward expansion. Soon after independence, Thomas Jefferson began the militarized acquisition of Native lands. He envisioned an ever-growing America, but needed a constant supply of “empty” land to fuel his dream. Later, Andrew Jackson would follow his lead, ignoring the Supreme Court to carry out the forced dislocation of most of the Native people of the Southeast. I wonder how the ceremonies and other activities that mark the 4th would be different if they included conversations about this history. Continue reading