Are you excited for the 4th of July?
Are you looking forward to all of the American traditions we love to engage in year after year?
Independence Day has a new meaning every single year. It has a new meaning for different populations as well.
In this article, I discuss 10 reasons why Independence Day may not be a day of celebration for everyone this year. I also include a link to a recent video of mine on the topic of trauma.
One of the things we, as a society content in our own lives, fail to realize is that the 4th of July can have a re-traumatizing effect across the nation. It isn’t always a celebration of freedoms. For a lot of under-represented groups of people (i.e. people of color, veterans, the mentally ill, the homeless, those incarcerated, etc), Independence Day is a reminder of the injustices that leave them feeling unwanted, misdirected, and undermined.
It’s saddening, and quite embarrassing, to admit the social ills of our society and our repeated failed efforts to include ALL. We talk of “reducing stigma,” being “equal,” and “including others.” But do we really do that? Do we really seek to make others feel included every single day of our lives? If you said “yes,” great! Perhaps you are the exception. But if you said “no,” I’d have to agree with you.
Just stop for a moment and take a look at everyday interactions in our society. We have competition, marginalization, inconsideration, and a host of other things that contribute negative vibes and mentalities to our society. We fail to make inclusion, empathy, and compassion a focal point of daily existence.
But then, once a holiday comes around, everyone is ready to be inclusive and celebrate. Sadly, for a marginalized group of people celebration is the last thing on their minds. As a result, Independence Day, for example, becomes a trigger for haunting thoughts and reminders of:
- Criminalization: It shouldn’t be a surprise that a large percentage of Americans and Immigrants are jailed or imprisoned rather than rehabilitated or hospitalized. A lot of mental health need can be found in our prisons. In fact, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center, 50 years of failed mental health policy or attempted reform has led to our jails and prisons overflowing with people in great need of help. The Treatment Advocacy Center reports individuals with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are 10x more likely to be jailed than helped.
- Imprisonment within the land: Imprisonment doesn’t just begin with handcuffs or a taser and then later being placed behind bars. It can include the very act of being ousted by a large number of people because of your skin color, religious affiliation, belief system, or disability. We all know that in order to be accepted in America you must “blend in.”
- Disenfranchisement: The definition of disenfranchisement in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “to deprive of a legal right or of some privilege or immunity, especially to: deprive of the right to vote. Did you know that if you get charged with a felony and have served your time you never regain the ability to vote? You are tagged a criminal for the rest of your life. Did you know that Native Americans, after the Indian Removal Act of 1830 (signed into law by President Andrew Jackson), required the removal or moving of Native American tribes to lands west of the Mississippi River?
- Immigration: Anyone new to the United States or who has been undocumented for years are rarely considered of value. When I worked in a juvenile locked facility almost 8 years ago, I treated youths whose parents were immigrants. They always struggled with feeling “at home” in a nation their parents gave a lot to. Have you heard of the saying “Immigrants make America great?” There’s a lot of history behind this.
- Reform: In 2015, there were more than 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US. But Mexican families were not the majority. In fact, Asia and Central America immigrants accounted for a large number of immigrants to the US. In an effort to “reduce unauthorized immigration” we tend to focus on Mexican families. But the reality is that immigration reform would not only affect Mexican families but families of all cultures.
- Acculturation/Assimilation: Acculturation can be defined as the process of “blending” in with the majority culture in order to survive. Assimilation can be defined as the process of blending in so much that a culture begins to lose and abandon everything that makes them unique. Can you imagine abandoning, completely, your ethics, values, style, beliefs, thoughts, culture, traditions, etc? It’s a traumatic process for many.
- Eurocentrism: A mentality of euro-centrism is often the pre-requisite for immigration reform. The idea that everyone must “conform” or at least become “full-blown Americans” is Eurocentrism. We can tolerate Spanish speaking families. We can tolerate different values and traditions. We’re supposed to be the “melting pot” right?
- Homelessness: A large percentage of the mentally ill, the incarcerated, the detained and deported are those who are homeless. We have failed a large number of people in this nation.
- Mass Ignorance: Mass ignorance is a social condition needing “treatment.” A lack of understanding, empathy, and direction can truly underline the nation’s intelligence. When we don’t have the facts or the truth, we assume and assign meaning. This has never worked in our favor.
- Marginalization: Once again, we have thousands upon thousands of families who are marginalized for the color of their skin, the condition of their mind, the tradition of their families and culture, etc. Marginalization imprisons the human spirit.
So what do you think of this list? Exaggeration? The truth untold? If you would like to see my video on trauma, click here.
As always, I encourage you to share your thoughts below.
I wish you well