a both/and july 4th

Oh, July 4th! It used to be a holiday that I didn’t think much about. While over the years I began to question it’s meaning, I’ll admit, the past 4+ years was I when I seriously began wrestling with wanting to skip it. Donald Trump elected as President shifted something in my soul that I now recognize probably should have been there all along. His administration and four years of magnifying the realities of the lie of white, male, and Christian supremacy catalyzed me to newly confront a lot of things my privilege previously blocked me from noticing.

 Last year it was a strange holiday in the middle of a global pandemic.

This year was supposed to be about shifting out of COVID even though it’s still raging in so many places. 

I find myself feeling even stranger than last year.

I find myself feeling conflicted about it. 

And I am guessing I’m not alone. 

Are we supposed to celebrate a holiday that we know is rooted in a totally different kind of history that we were ever taught? Do we pretend that we didn’t steal an entire culture’s land, dominate and destroy, and somehow believe we were dedicated to “freedom” while ignoring that slavery and oppression of anyone non-white was embedded into our founding culture and was baked into the US’s DNA from the beginning?

Is it okay to enjoy a fun weekend with family and friends and remember where we’ve been this past year, how much we’ve endured, how many have died, and how much we’ve all fighting a global pandemic and finding our way through one of the weirdest hardest seasons of our country’s (and the world’s) history? 

I’m not on social media much these days, but what I do see seems to have contradicting ideas–usually always along the same lines as the polarized left and right. The camps are strong, opinionated, fascinating, exhausting. 

God Bless America OR it’s a terrible thing to celebrate July 4th anymore. 

It reminds me of how the tilt toward binary-thinking invades all of our living. 

It’s just so easy to think of everything as either/or instead of both/and.

As someone who is no doubt a white resourced progressive, I have felt extremely conflicted in these past several years on how to move in this ever-evolving world freely. The voice I worked hard to more bravely use has felt a bit narrowed, and a hesitancy to say anything has crept in. Sometimes it’s hard for me to discern which part is grief and which part is being afraid of saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, getting tromped on for what I say or don’t say. 

While I am definitely impaired in a lot of ways, I think my confliction is much more than grief because it started before my son died in 2019. 

I think it’s because the either/or culture has made its way into the most progressive of circles in the same way that it’s been embedded in the most conservative of circles.

It feels sad to me these days.  

I definitely want to be a person who’s open to always learning.

I want to be a person who continues to stands against injustice.

I want to be a person who uses my privilege for good.

I want to be a person who is willing to disrupt the status quo.

I want to be a person who isn’t afraid to say what I’m wrestling with. 

But, more than ever, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to be a person who is brave enough to live in the both/and instead of the either/or. 

I can lean into all the ways the history I have been taught about July 4th is radically flawed and a white-washed holiday (in every sense of the word) and I don’t have to “celebrate” any of that AND I can own that I am a white American married into an immigrant family from El Salvador who’s made a life in this country and I’m grateful despite all its flaws. 

I can honor that I sometimes feel shame as a white person for the ways we as a group and me as a person have perpetuated the lie of white supremacy AND I can hold my head up because I know that I am trying to keep hacking at this life-time work of anti-racism and catalyzing more equitable systems with all my human limitations.

I can remember that I have benefitted from the patriarchy and it helped me in ways I am sometimes incredibly embarrassed by AND I am doing everything I can to continue to chip away at its horrible roots in our systems, in my own life and experience.

This July 4th I want to be able to say that I can’t stand it when people say “God Bless America” and the words of so many patriotic songs make me cringe and our flag has become charged with a lot of well-deserved baggage AND I can own that I am thankful to live in the USA and this is where my story is hubbed.

I can’t be something I’m not.

We as a nation shouldn’t be pretending we’re something we’re not.

AND we can keep working toward a better, more honest future together and allow that everyone is learning at different paces, trying in different ways, being their own kind of brave in the changes that need to be made.

I think it’s dangerous ground when we make everything either/or, right or wrong, worthy or not worthy, for Jesus or against Jesus, smart or dumb, woke or ignorant. 

So this July 4th, I keep dreaming of a non-binary world.

Of embracing this as a both-and holiday.

It’s not going away AND we can change our relationship with it. 

It makes me want to lighten up a little and let myself enjoy things like a sweet simple BBQ with my Refuge community acknowledging “it’s complicated” AND respecting that so much of we learned about independence in our country is flawed and continues to wreak havoc in our systems and our personal lives, too. 

I long for the day we’d be able to celebrate Interdependence Day instead

Alas, that’s a long way off but, yeah, I do like to dream.

Both/And love from Colorado today, Kathy 

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life and online. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

2 Comments

  • Good points, my friend. You’re expressing a great balance. I’d like to think I’m in a similar place.

    And I am active in promoting ways for people to do more and “better” interaction on important topics that are often highly emotionally charged. One of them, going back to around 2016, is #ListenFirst, via the Listen First Coalition. If you’re not familiar, I think you’d be encouraged and maybe want to participate at some level, or share it around.

    Reply

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