When I think of certain American holidays like Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, I think of my childhood. I’m reminded of days spent at a pool with family friends — or with the majority of my extended family — that always ended in a fireworks display. It was still early enough in the summer where school had ended recently, and everyone around me was happy.
It’s a bit different as an adult — when I think of these holidays I am now reminded that I get a day off from work. A day to sleep, catch up on work and maybe catch a party over the preceding weekend. It doesn’t hold the same luster that it did for me as a child, but it definitely represents relief and for that I am grateful.
But if we consult our history books — not necessarily the ones we were provided with in high school, or if we just turn on the news, we’ll do well to remember that millennials in the United States have a great deal of freedom to celebrate.
- For starters, we are, of course, an independent nation, better known as a Democratic Republic. And we weren’t prior to the Revolutionary War that ended in our independence from England—not officially won until the Battle at Yorktown on October 19, 1781. (Ah, now you remember U.S. History class!)
- We are not subject to the same type of patriarchy that did not allow for all sexes to vote—and we can thank heroes like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony for hosting the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, that only marked the beginning of a movement for an increase in women’s rights.
- We live in a country where slavery — although it still exists in some unfortunate forms including sex trafficking, is outlawed. In case we need a reminder, it wasn’t always that way.
- We do not live in a country that allows for the practice of female castration. Not to belabor the point, but the fact that castration continues in other parts of the world, sometimes for religious reasons, is nothing short of horrifying. A United Nations report issued in early 2016 indicated that approximately 200 million girls and women in over 30 countries have been victims of castration.
- We don’t have a government that enforces the type of regulations that would prohibit certain publications — we have the right to write about what we want to write about. If a writer wants to write an article about his or her apparent dislike of the president’s policies, it’s allowed. And the publishing of an article praising his work all the same would also be allowed.
- We can practice any faith we wish to, or no faith at all. While we still have a long way to go toward acceptance of marginalized groups, just this week alone, the Islamic State attacked innocent citizens in Istanbul, Bangladesh and Baghdad, all in the perceived name of religion. While we’ve experienced tragic attacks, which have centered on particular religious groups, these types of horrors are everyday occurrences for countries where the Islamic State is in control.
America isn’t perfect — far from it. No matter your political persuasion, there is a great deal of change necessary in our nation, but we have the right to fight for that change and, as we like to say, be forces for good.