This year especially, and for good reason, you saw a fair share of scold posts insisting that the 4th of July is an expression of evil and that you need to have a very bad time during it or else you’re a bad person. Presumably these posts were directed to a theoretical person who A) knows all about America’s infinitely deep history of cruelty, exploitation, and inhumanity but also B) is unaware that the 4th of July is intended as a celebration of America. “I never thought of that!” This presumably real person says, reading your extremely insightful Instagram post about how America is bad, actually. “Thanks!”
Of course it’s never a bad time to point out the rampant injustice in contemporary America, because any day you wake up it’s a fair bet that America in the process of delivering some act of unconscionable evil on a vulnerable person. You are behooved to witness that, because as an American you are complicit. More: it behooves you to actively combat the injustices carried out in your name - in our occupied cities, in the abandoned rural stretches of our country, in the nations abroad that we terrorize. You want to fight that, which is good, you should. Knowing the extent of our nation’s evil, you are uncomfortable celebrating a holiday that ostensibly praises America. That makes sense.
But I’ll let you in on a helpful hint that budding activists tend to learn in high school (because sweetie I’m sorry, some of you are real new to this and it shows): anger doesn’t sustain a movement. Unless you’re like Larry Kramer or John Brown or Mao. Anger is a catalyst: the moment of pure rage, when you witness America’s history in metonymy, in the form of a strangled man or a caged child, and you have no choice but to act. Again, you have to look and you have to act, but looking and acting are both taxing, and we activists are only human. You can only carry the weight of the word for so long before you collapse, I assure you.
Self-care is an activist concept, you know. It came out of the queer feminist movement - Audre Lorde coined the term for the necessary work of rest and recuperation that an activist owes herself. Further, that she owes the movement: an activist running on pure blind rage is guaranteed to burn out, hundreds of years of struggled proved that time and again. A movement cannot sustain on anger. It can sustain on love.
This is the secret that Socialists know: what gets us out in the streets, time and again, in the face of relentless, constant setbacks, is not anger but joy. Socialism fucking owns! It feels awesome to be a socialist! Being fully awake to our country’s historical and present malice is painful, but against all this pain and meanness there is one true and undying oppositional force, and it’s name is Solidarity. With Socialism you can wake each day and know that America is evil, but you will know with equal certainty that you are not alone. That you’re not the only one fighting, that other people want a better world too. And that knowledge will sustain you long after your ability to stay angry fails. I promise you, you will go much further fighting for your fellow citizen than you ever could fighting against your hated enemy. The union makes us strong.
And that’s the thing: these American people are worth fighting for. Our optimism and gumption - our gallows humor - is genuinely unique on this planet. When I think about our cities and vast rural stretches, I think about all the stupid, hilarious, regular fucking people out there, “Americans,” and I love them. We owe them a better country, a country as good as they are. The United States, in its power and love of domination, is a vicious, cruel state, but if this country was just its sovereign actions, it would not be worth our time and energy to try to fix it. The people of this country are fantastic - that’s why we go out in the streets demanding more. And that’s what I think about on the 4th of July. So shove your petulant little posts up your ass and eat a fucking hot dog.