Are We Celebrating the 4th of July This Year?

Warning: this is not a sports post. And it’s going to get uncomfortable for a lot of you.

244 years ago, the American colonies came together and drafted up a document to Mother England, declaring its independence. War breaks out. Mel Gibson becomes a hero. America becomes a nation. Woo. Cool. Fast-forward 244 years, where are we?

Here’s where I am. This was the first ever 4th of July I felt uncomfortable about celebrating, and didn’t even know how to. What are we even celebrating? WHO are we even celebrating? One Nation? Nope. Under God? Lord willing. Indivisible? Ha. Liberty and Justice for all?….

Let’s just start with acknowledging how unique the year 2020 has been. No, not dumb, or stupid, or awful. I’ll explain that, but it’s been unique, right? There’s a global pandemic dominating us. There’s no sports, no concerts, no shows. Businesses have been closed for months, potentially even permanently. Wearing masks in public is now not only a norm, but a necessity.

Oh, and there was another display of social injustice and murder of an innocent black man. And another, and another, and another…

Oh, yikes, that’s not part of the uniqueness in 2020 at all. Here in America, that’s been the norm for quite some time. The broken system is merely the tip of an iceberg of inequality and social issues that need to be addressed but are being swept under the rug and forgotten about a week or two after uproar. Whether you are numb to it, or just flat out don’t want to admit it, this is our country. This is where we’re at. And it didn’t start with George Floyd either, let’s be clear. For those of you ignoring the problems, or that are numb to real life, this isn’t a newsflash. The horrifying, heinous actions of those four cops in Minneapolis we’re not the beginning of social injustices in America. We’ve been here, America. If you’re awake, you should be pissed. And if you’re not pissed, wake up.

I’m here to call myself out, and to call you out. And I’m sorry it took me the better part of 26 years to do so.

Before this year, I did not speak up about anything. I didn’t speak about social injustices, the division of our nation. I did not talk about things that “weren’t in my realm” because I didn’t like how uncomfortable it made me feel. I thought, eh, I don’t like conflict. Someone with a bigger voice and larger platform will do it, nobody needs to hear it from me. Nobody cares what I think. You might as well say I was numb to everything. I’ll own it.

And that is disgusting. Trust me, I’m disgusted writing it. But I’m not here because it’s easy. I’m here because it’s necessary. Let’s get uncomfortable.

I’ve spent many nights awake these past few months feeling so anxious, so selfish, so absolutely dumbfounded at myself. I’m a strong believer in faith. We’re taught to love everyone, and me not speaking up for my brothers and sisters in Christ, or even acknowledging the fact that there is a significant problem of equality in this country, is not doing that. That’s not following Jesus. That’s not being like Jesus. That’s silence. And guess what? Silence is compliance.

Who’s still with me?

I’m here to call it like it is. I’m here to admit my shortcomings. I’m here to speak up loud and be part of the change, and that change is coming. I can’t fix the past, but I can move forward. I can listen. I can learn.

I’m a privileged white male living on the north side of Chicago. I have a job that I love. I have a great family, I have great friends. I have someone that makes me want to give everything I have to do better and be better each and every day. I have a strong faith and belief in God and His plans for me. I’m beyond blessed, thankful, and again, privileged.

I will never be able comprehend nor begin to comprehend what it is like to be a non-white citizen living in the United States in the past, present, or future in any corner of any neighborhood. I don’t know. I won’t know.

But here’s what I do know. I sure can listen to what it’s like from people that do know. And I sure can take the time to take action and speak up to create equality for everyone in our country and beyond. I can have uncomfortable conversations, and I can watch uncomfortable documentaries, movies, and events unfold that will allow me to learn and do better. I can do so much to be a part of building an America everyone can love and everyone can be a part of, no matter who you are or what you look like.

So what does this have to do with the 4th of July and celebrating Independence Day? Let’s try an analogy. Please, just hear me out.

I’m a die hard Bears fan. I don’t care if we’re 16-0 (lol) or 0-16 (realistic), I’m going to be a Bears fan. Sometimes, lots of times, they piss me off. The moves they make, the opportunities missed, the games lost. The lack of care and, in some cases, lack of leadership. We go way back, me and my Bears. And let me tell you, they piss me off. A lot. But I love them. With all my heart. I’m not going to turn my back on them. Nor are the other millions of pissed Bears fans. What are we going to do? We’re going to establish why we’re pissed. We’re going to raise our voices, let them know we are pissed, and try to voice a change and create a future for the betterment of our beloved Bears. Go Bears.

Right now, I’m pissed at America. I’m pissed at leadership on down. I’m pissed at me, and I’m pissed at you. We, as a country, failed. We are down big. Collectively. Point fingers all you want, there’s three more pointing back at you.

What I’m saying is it’s time to huddle up, together, and be ONE NATION, UNDER GOD, INDIVISIBLE, WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL. It’s been time. We need to learn why we are failing, where we are failing. We need to speak up to the powers that be and let them know we’re pissed, and we need to change. Now. And that’s not going to happen unless we work together to be the change we need. We need all of our voices, big and small, to come together. We need to be one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. But actually all those things, and for real this time.

I’m celebrating the 4th of July today. But I’m not celebrating it as a label, or as a status. I’m not celebrating as a Republican. I’m not celebrating as a Democrat. I’m not celebrating as a privileged white male or as a targeted African American. I’m not even celebrating as a “proud” American.

I’m celebrating as an average American who has a voice and an opinion, and can see change happening. I can see people learning. Trying. I see people realizing and documenting the wrongs. I see people speaking up against those wrongs. Better yet, I see the people who can make change happen HEARING the changes wanted, whether they’re trying not to listen or have a pen and paper ready to go. I’m celebrating the fight for justice and humanity. I can see a better America forming. We’re coming together, and we’re only going to create change if we all come together. That’s what I’m celebrating today.

A Christian writer named Bob Goff tweeted something I absolutely love the other day. He said, “Jesus never promised to eliminate all of the chaos from our lives; He said He’d bring meaning to it.” I am a huge believer in everything happening for a reason. 2020 hasn’t been dumb, or stupid. I’m not writing it off because meaning is being brought to everything we’ve endured. We just have to listen, and act. Do our part to pave the way. And we have all 2nd half to make this the most historic year in history. The good kind of history.

Remember that Clint Eastwood Super Bowl Commercial? “It’s halftime, America.” Come on. Let’s run through a freaking brick wall for equality.

Go celebrate today knowing the start of a new and better, more welcoming America is forming. Then tomorrow, let’s get to work.

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