Banerjee: What does my freedom cost?

The Fourth of July isn’t free — it apparently costs $2.5 million dollars in military displays we don’t need.


Joseph Cress

File photo

Anna Banerjee, Columnist

There has always been a special part in my heart for the Fourth of July. I love spending time with my family and friends, setting off fireworks, and making food together. It’s an intimate and communal experience to see groups of people staring up at the sky. There is something to be said for sparklers spread out across your front lawn, all smoky and bright.

I also hate the Fourth of July. I don’t like it because I don’t feel welcome in the seas of red, white, and blue. I don’t like it because I know the cost my fireworks come at. I don’t like it because I am not — and never will be — taken in by overt patriotism when I know it doesn’t represent me. It’s hard to feel a sense of community when I don’t feel comfortable turning on the news. I certainly don’t want to watch the president celebrating a holiday with tanks in the streets.

This isn’t a new thought or any type of groundbreaking thinkpiece. I’m just another Iowa City leftist angry at the state of my country, looking to bring down the jovial midsummer holiday atmosphere.

It is impossible to detach the Fourth from its recent political implications. Trump’s celebration this year, titled “Salute to America,” will cost $2.5 million, money coming straight out of the parks budget. In this giant display of wealth, there will be tanks and jets — overt military flyovers. It’s not a threat, but it might as well be one. It’s a reminder of America’s reliance on military power, something we are supposed to feel proud of in relation to our freedom.

What do tanks say about freedom? They don’t remind me that I live in a country people fought for in the 1700s; it reminds me that these are the tanks rolled out on foreign soil, responsible for pointless casualties and violent imperialism. Freedom doesn’t mean strength, and it certainly doesn’t mean military prowess.

With this backdrop, fireworks feel less like artistic displays and more like reminders of firepower. I don’t feel free. I feel trapped in service to a country that cares about me only as long as I contribute to our perceived greatness.

The Fourth of July should be about community and loving the people around us. It should be about our pride in our healthy and safe communities, not about money or power. I don’t want to celebrate a holiday that is at the expense of children at the border, of civilians across the world, of people in poverty in our cities.

There’s nothing inherently wrong in supporting the country you live in, especially if you do love that country. But, I find it difficult to see what I’m supposed to be celebrating when my picture of what the Fourth of July is drastically differs from what is being displayed. I want to love the Fourth of July, but I don’t know how I can.

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