Politics

07.03.14

P.J. O'Rourke: 27 Sensitive, Caring, Green, and Politically Committed Reasons to Ban July 4th

From gluten-filled hamburger buns to the carcinogens in your grill’s charcoal, not to mention light pollution, 27 reasons to ‘Take Back the Quiet’ and drop this chauvinistic holiday.

1. The 4th of July has been reactionary, chauvinistic, and out-of-date since 1776.

On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote to his partner Abigail about the “reaction” of the thirteen American colonies to British rule, saying, “I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations… It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

Let’s deconstruct this, shall we?

2. “celebrated”

By white males privileged by European descent, social status, income disparity, and lobbying influence in the Continental Congress. What about oppressed people of color, Native Americans, undocumented Hessian immigrants, displaced victims of British subject ethnic cleansing, workers earning less than the income necessary to meet their basic needs under minimum wage laws that didn’t exist yet, and women?  Women did not have the vote.

3. “succeeding generations”

Overpopulation is a pressing global issue, adversely affecting health, economic equality, ecological sustainability, and species extinction, especially in developing countries such as the United States was in 1776.

4. “solemnized” “from this time forward forever more”

Religious subtext in the Declaration of Independence. This violates First Amendment guarantees of separation of church and state or would when the Constitution got written.

5&6. “pomp and parade”

Read “elitism” and “militarism.”

7. “games”

Already, in 1776, rich white male elites were playing games with the American people.

8. “sports”

No mention of Title IX.

9. “guns”

America is in urgent need of more stringent gun control laws, as the British discovered at Lexington and Concord. Guns kill almost as many people each year as drug overdoses, and John Adams didn’t even bother to mention inadequate treatment facilities for drug dependence in his letter to Abigail.

10. Lead from the bullets in guns falls to the ground.

Ground where children play.  Even small amounts of lead exposure can severely affect the mental and physical development of children, especially poor children—who lack safe, officially inspected, creative playground facilities with supervision by trained adults—and are forced to play in empty lots and other areas of ground where bullets may have fallen.

11. “bells”

Noise damages hearing. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 10 million Americans have suffered irreversible noise-induced hearing loss and 30 million more are exposed to dangerous noise levels every day. Let’s “Take Back the Quiet” and make the 4th of July a day off from dangerous noise levels.

12. “bonfires”

Bonfires, campfires, and other forms of under-regulated recreational fire use are leading causes of wildfires, which burn an average of 1,700,000 acres a year in America, destroying scenic beauty that should be available to all Americans while increasing the nation’s carbon footprint.

13. “illumination”

Light pollution wastes energy resources, disrupts the ecosystems of nocturnal species, obscures the night sky for astronomers both amateur and professional, and may have health effects that haven’t been discovered.

14. “from one end of the continent to the other”

In 1776 the United States was a small, colonial nation on the Atlantic coast of North America. Here we witness the imperialism inherent in colonialism.

Nor are these the only reasons for the objectionable nature of the 4th of July as a national holiday.

15. The Declaration of Independence was signed by a Continental Congress not only lacking racial, ethnic, and gender diversity, but including no openly LBGT members.

Although there was the time, described in John Adams’s autobiography, when Adams and Benjamin Franklin shared a bed at a tavern while traveling from Philadelphia to New York. The night was spent with Franklin getting up to open the window and Adams getting up to shut it—clearly acting out sexual repressions.

16. The 4th of July is customarily marked by charcoal “cook-outs,” which endanger the community.

Burning charcoal generates hydrocarbons, particulate air pollution, wildfires, and carbon footprints.

17. Cooking food with charcoal produces known carcinogens.

And we have no way of knowing how many unknown carcinogens.

18. Traditional foods at cook-outs—cheeseburgers, hotdogs, deviled eggs, potato salad…

Are calorie intensive and high in saturated fat content. America is suffering from an obesity epidemic.

19. Eating animals and animal products reflects species prejudice.

It’s time to abandon our poisonous legacy of speciesism.

20. Factory farming, under inhumane conditions…

Is the source of cheeseburger and hotdog meat, produced by farm workers who lack effective union organization.

21. Cheeseburgers and hotdogs are served on buns and rolls…

That do not meet the dietary needs of those who are gluten intolerant.

22. The same is true of common brands of beer…

Industrially brewed by large, monopolistic, multinational corporations with marketing programs that may target children.

23. Children must be protected from fireworks injuries.

Fireworks injure 8,700 Americans a year. Fireworks are set off on the 4th of July.

24. Many of the 8,700 fireworks injuries cause physical and emotional damage that result in disabilities.

As a nation, we lag in making 4th of July events accessible to the disabled and safe for People Who Are Motor Skill Challenged (PWAMSC).

25. We need to address the problem of social media bullying…

Against children who are being protected from fireworks injuries and are therefore excluded from 4th of July events attended by their peers.

26. Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and John Adams both died on the 4th of July, 1826.

The day should be set aside for raising awareness of Jefferson’s hypocritical slave ownership and sexual exploitation of Sally Hemings and President Adams’ support for the 1798 “Alien and Sedition Acts,” which allowed the president to imprison foreign nationals who were considered “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States.” This reflects an unfounded “fear of the other” that remains a hallmark of non-progressive American thought and also means that some foreign nationals may have been in U.S. detention for 216 years.

27. And the 4th of July is on the wrong day.

The Continental Congress declared independence from Britain on July 2nd. The 4th was simply when the Continental Congress approved the final wording of its independence declaration. If the 4th of July were the 2nd of July, it would have been on Wednesday this year. We could have taken a couple of days of family leave (which Washington prevents U.S. corporations from being required to provide) on either side of Wednesday and had a whole damn week go to parades, play backyard softball games, fire guns, ring bells, light bonfires, grill cheeseburgers, drink beer, and blow our fingers off with M-80s.