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by Helen Xia, CHS Student Writer

Fireworks against a dark night sky at the end of the Thurmont Ambulance Co. Carnival.

Photo by Helen Xia

It’s now July, and you know what that means: Independence Day! It’s difficult to forget this valued national holiday, given the fireworks, the smell of toasty barbecue, and the flag of the United States displayed proudly in front of homes and businesses during this time of year.

Just like any other holiday, there is a wide range of emotions that are often felt, ranging from patriotism to excitement to even exhaustion after a day of lively celebration. Upon thinking about what to write for this subject, I recalled an article I read about the shifting attitude of society regarding national pride—a sentiment typically felt on the 4th of July. Interestingly, according to Gallup data, United States adults who claim to be “extremely proud” to be American reached a “record-low” since 2001, measuring 38 percent. Still, it’s worthwhile to note that 27 percent remain “very proud,” and a total of “65 percent of U.S. adults express pride in the nation.”

Given these statistics, I wanted to know how the people around me felt about Independence Day, and perhaps compare the responses between age groups. I divided the respondents into three age groups: young children, teenagers, and adults.

Most of the answers I received from young children were quite brief. “It’s cool,” said an eleven-year-old; “It’s normal,” shrugged a nine-year-old. Reasonable insight, really—I didn’t know anything when I was that age, so I can’t judge!

Another nine-year-old had more to say: “I’m happy and grateful about Independence Day,” he explained, “because the United States of America got their independence and freedom from Great Britain, and without the United States, we wouldn’t have a home and might still have war.” Surprisingly, this explanation from this nine-year-old was one of the most thorough reflections I collected!

A majority of the replies I garnered from teenagers included an explanation of what the holiday is about. We know what we’re talking about! “I guess independence day celebrates independence from Britain,” stated one teenager, “but it also is a day to honor fallen soldiers.” Similarly, another teenager conveyed, “Independence Day is where we celebrate those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedoms. Thanks to them, we have many rights and freedoms today.” This is true, especially taking into account that approximately 6,800 Americans lost their lives in pursuit of independence, with about 6,100 wounded. Not only is it our day to celebrate and commemorate, it is their day, too.

On a more lighthearted note, a 16-year-old (half-jokingly) declared, “I love Independence Day because it’s a reminder of how much the British sucked.” Needless to say, there is more nuance than this, but I found this funny.

Speaking of nuance, another teenager brought up a few thought-provoking points. “While I feel there is no issue in celebrating Independence Day, it may also be an upsetting day for those whose ancestors were on the receiving end of oppression via our country. Independence Day should not only be a celebration of our founding but also an acknowledgment of the United States’ failings in order to improve in the future. Essentially, it should be more a time of reflection than blind joy and backyard barbecues.” To add to this, I once heard a quote that contends, “Before you improve something, you must respect it.” I feel like this applies here.

Another high-schooler commented, “Independence Day, to me, marks an important part of history that marks the beginnings of the country we live in. I don’t think it’s something that every American should necessarily celebrate (because most likely barely any of us [teens] do), but I believe it is important to understand the meaning of Independence Day and the connection it has to us in the time and society we live in.”

Lastly, I interviewed a teenager who comes from a military family, which I thought would be an intriguing perspective to learn about. “I enjoy Independence Day because it brings focus to our history as the United States and the hardworking people who fought for our country in the very beginning so that we could be free today,” she articulated. “My favorite aspect about Independence Day is the fireworks. To me, seeing the sky light up in magnificent colors and designs is a perfect way to end the night with family and friends while celebrating this holiday.”

Reading back on the responses the individuals around my age provided, I found that most of them highlighted the relevance of the history behind the 4th of July and how that significance ties to modern times and the future. I’m happy to know that we are well aware of this vital portion of our nation’s history—after all, precious phenomena like compassion and innovation are rooted in education.

Now, on to the adults’ responses! Right off the bat, the adults’ replies were succinct but enlightening. For instance, a woman suggested, “It’s a necessary holiday to remember the foundations of our country.” We’ve explored several of the emotions and personal values people hold concerning the 4th of July, but this is the first time somebody asserted that the holiday is “necessary.” I thought this was a compelling take since a crucial part of our country’s founding is accentuated and taught on this day. Perhaps some people only know about the American Revolutionary War because of Independence Day; with that in mind, it’s a valuable celebration to hold.

Another adult elaborated, “I’m glad for our freedoms, and it’s a day to celebrate our freedoms and our rights as citizens for what the military has done for us.” Comparably, a grown-up defined Independence Day as “a day that we celebrate our freedoms and our God-given rights, laid down by the Constitution. [It’s] a day we remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

It’s apparent from these answers that the adults, too, seemed to spotlight the history associated with Independence Day.

Finally, a grown-up emphasized the traditions of Independence Day and the joy of celebrating with these practices: “I enjoy picnics, barbecues, and family get-togethers, as well as firework shows and parades with people waving the American flag,” he expressed. “It’s a fun day with origins steeped in the desire for independence and to create a new America.”

As mentioned previously, adults also underscored the events leading up to the Declaration of Independence and how the holiday came to be; however, I observed that while teenagers tended to link this history with present-day society and how to use this information propelling forward, adults employed the United States’ rich history as reasons for celebration. (Of course, one is not necessarily more valid than the other, and my conclusion is from a limited number of interviews. I just thought this observation was cool!)

Independence Day, or July 4th, is a day featuring the American colonies’ grievances and sacrifices, the passing of the Declaration of Independence, and nationhood. Truthfully, I’ve never done anything notable to celebrate this day, but that doesn’t undermine how special it may be to other people. Thinking back, to me, this day used to be simply a day about star-shaped sunglasses and red, white, and blue sprinkles on ice cream; now that I’m older, there is certainly more to think about than that! (And, I hope this article gave you something to think about!)

Did you notice any trends amongst groups of people or differences between the responses above?

Since there is quite a variety of answers, did you relate to any of them?

Regardless, I hope everyone has a delightful July!