Why the 4th of July term is Orwellian and I’m boycotting it

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No, I’m not anti-American, nor am I anti-barbecue or anti-fireworks (although the county-wide burn ban makes things a little trickier and somewhat less festive this year).

I’m not boycotting the actual holiday or what it stands for.  Just the opposite, actually.

What I am boycotting is the generic, stale, bleak, meaningless term “4th of July”.  It sounds ridiculous: “Happy 4th of July!”  It carries no meaning, no spirit.  It conveys nothing about what it actually stands for, the freedom gained, the rights protected, the blood shed, the life lost, the tears cried, the challenges faced, the tragedies witnessed, the friends and family missed, the courage shown, or the service given.  It tells nothing about the pride, honor, courage, strength, selflessness, dedication, gumption, initiative, or respect.  It reveals nothing about the victory, the success, the hardship, or the significance.

In this country, July 4th is called Independence Day, which is not just a Will Smith movie about alien invasion.  If you read literature from the 1800s, that’s ALL they called it.  There was no “Happy 4th!” and it wasn’t simply an excuse for a day off or an extended weekend.  They lit off fireworks, too, but it wasn’t another reason to buy a case of beer, it was another reason to read and recite the Constitution and to sing songs that I doubt anyone is even aware of today, let alone knows the words to.

Think of how stupid it would sound if, instead of wishing each other a Merry Christmas (or even a more bland Happy Holidays), we simply said, “Happy 25th of December!”  Or instead of Happy New Year, it was “Happy 1st of January!”  What if Thanksgiving became “Happy November Holiday!”

It sounds stupid, and rightfully so.  It’s like sticking a cigarette in a duck’s mouth and suddenly realizing how dumb smoking actually looks.  You start to wonder, “you’re right – humans are the only species dumb enough to do this.  Why do we do it, anyway?”

Wearing a more reflective tinfoil hat, I often entertain the idea that there may be a more sinister purpose at work here…

In the 1960s, a major revision of US history textbooks was done.  Details were changed, emphasis and educational priorities were shifted.  Certain important pieces of history were de-highlighted and kind of shoved into a corner, while other previously-insignificant matters were given more attention.  It could reasonably be said that this was the beginning of our devolution away from our unique American-ness – our pride, our strength, our rebellious spirit, and our gumption.

I’m not sure when the whole “4th of July” term emerged, but it had to have been before my time because by the time I became conscious of the world, its use was already well underway.  I have long since reached adulthood, and references to the 4th of July are ALL you hear; the term “Independence Day” is basically non-existent.  And I have good reason to believe that it is yet another strategy utilized by Powers That Be to further whitewash and under-emphasize our rich history and respectable, unique characteristics.

Because see, those characteristics include not only things I’ve already mentioned like gumption, initiative, pride, and honor, but also perseverance, strength, morality, spirituality, FREEDOM, INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS (highest on the endangered species list), independence, intelligence, sovereignty, individuality, unconventionality, and rebellion.  Back then, we were able to think and act freely, and enjoy fruits of our labor, including unprecedented rights such as property ownership.

These concepts run in sharp contrast to the ideal characteristics of a subject, subservient, passive population.  Such a population well-endowed in spirit, enlightenment, and strength would not be easy to control or manipulate.  So these characteristics, values, and the quest for them must be dampened and treated as insignificant.  Distractions must be installed and covert whitewashing campaigns executed.

The “4th of July” being overwhelmingly favored in contemporary vernacular over the proper, respectful, and more descriptive term “Independence Day” is just a symptom of a much larger problem.

The Orwellian story of “1984” unmistakably demonstrates how, by changing speech and vocabulary, an authority can thus influence thought.  Thought and its fruits can be manipulated and dampened by simplifying speech and squelching types of speech.  For example, the idea of “hate speech” bears such resemblance to similar campaigns by The Party in “1984” that it can cause one to wonder if George Orwell was more than just an author and if his books align closer with reality than with fiction.

It’s been a while, so I re-read some excerpts from the book and was astonished at the parallels between what is supposed to be a fictional post-war book set in war-torn Europe saturated with theoretical Big Brother and The Party entities and the supposedly free-market modern society in the United States, Land of the Free.  The Newspeak, the Thought Crime, the endless surveillance, the manipulation and control of the facts, the educational teachings, and the news media.  The weakening of intimacy, relationships, and parental influence and bonding.  The chronic malnourishment.  The idea that there are no laws, nothing is illegal–except, that is, that which is natural and necessary to the flourishing and well-being of human society (love, truth, education, sanctuary, sanity, etc).

What’s worse is, it’s not a Republican thing.  It’s not a Democrat thing.  It’s not even a Communist or Fascist thing.  It contaminates from a much deeper level in superficial party labels, most likely shrouded by layers of wealth, power, protection, and immunity.  It’s not like electing different politicians will stop it, because only those who would (inadvertently or not) allow the current system to perpetuate would be nominated as choices.  It’s not about picking the right candidate for the job; it’s about choosing among the carefully pre-selected yes-men whose inclusion on the ballet practically guarantees more of the same no matter which of them assumes office.

Since our present predicament begins with thought, which is heavily influenced by speech and vocabulary, it’s time to take back our vocabulary.  It’s time to embrace our traditional ideals (pride, courage, honor, spirit, TRUE education), while embracing additional contemporary ideals (such as cultural and religious tolerance and diversity, gender equality, and the gender orientation continuum versus black-and-white labels).  It’s time to STOP lending over our minds for the use and manipulation by the Powers That Be.  And it begins with some of our most precious tools: our language and vocabulary.

So with that, Happy INDEPENDENCE Day.  Hey–it’s a start. 🙂

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