i am not a fan of many american holiday celebrations, but to say the july 4th is one of my very least favorites is a fair statement. i can still remember one of my early childhood experiences. we all went with some family friends to any even smaller town for a whole day shindig. i can’t remember exactly how young i was. what i do remember… a competition where they (the adults i assume) grease up a little pot belly pig for the kids to chase around and try to catch. i remember a terrified pig squealing all over the park. i don’t know what happened when the pig was caught. maybe the pig was the prize or some other equally horrific award.
then there were the horse races. for some reason i remember the adults in the group being super excited about this, maybe the reason for us going? i don’t know. what i do remember was sitting in the grandstands where the rodeo happens (i think maybe there was even a tractor pull?) and people placing bets. i remember thinking it was kinda cool that whomever picked the winning horse got the pot of money. i remember it just being mostly quarters in our group of people and that it was supposed to be a secret. but it seemed like the whole grandstand had similar little groups. i know white middle and working class folks getting excited about breaking the law out in the open…
the next thing i remember….hiding under the blankets because of the sound of the fireworks. i can still feel the shaking and tremors in my body. i remember being made fun of because my little sister was more brave than i, and she was totally enthralled with them. i remember being torn between wanting to see them and the fear of the sound. i hated it and couldn’t wait for it to be over.
over the years i mildly participated. i really enjoyed bottle rockets. going out in the country. finding a field that had recently been harvested and cleared. setting up empty beer cans and bottles with the little rockets. the cute little pop they make when they go off. the whooshing sound of roman candles. drawing figures with sparklers. but then there were the high school years of going to the fair grounds to watch the big productions. i used comic relief of the oohs, aahs, and lovely to mask my internal tremors that never really went away. i just tried to hide them. as an adult i would make it a mission to find the most remote place to see them, but not hear them. i used work as a way to avoid going altogether, or a 4 day backpacking trip. in portland i would work then usually had an animal companion sitting gig and would cuddle the dogs, cats, or chickens until the nights turned to days and all our torments finally quieted.
so ya….i hate the 4th of july and all it represents. i hate the nationalistic pride. i hate the fuck you it seems to say to the indigenous people who’s land the country we are supposed to be celebrating, enlisted genocide, war, slavery, and religion to occupy and steal. i hate the gluttony and mass consumerism that goes along side it, the eating contests, people who spend hundreds of dollars to blow shit up and then leave messes in the streets for, i don’t know who they expect, to clean it up. i hate getting caught at dusk, riding my bike as fast as possible to get home before the nightmare begins. those nights i didn’t make it and felt like i was caught in a war zone. sometimes, depending on where i was, not know if those blasts where gunshots or fireworks. many times seeing roman candles, bottle rockets, firecrackers wiz past me as i dodged through the city streets. i hate the fourth of july.
so when the calendar flipped this year, i didn’t really think much about it. after all, i am in a town where i don’t really know any one, so no bbq to get invited to (actually i began to like the vegan bbqs i went to, i just went home early), no fireworks date, no animals to watch, no big deal. i was going to go to the farmers market, get some good food and watch some movies….then my housemate said “i’m going to go to the parade wanna go?”
i didn’t think about the parade. i pictured central oregon, flag waving, patriotism, huge amounts of white people waving the flag…but i am in ashland oregon….white liberal southern oregon. at the mention of trump people shake their heads and nervously chuckle. no one here admits to voting for trump, but i also do not see/hear many clinton or sanders slogans or stickers…its kind of a weird liberal stepford-town. so i could go and see how this town is going to celebrate this day and all of its awkwardness, or i could hide away and make fun of it from afar….i went.
i have to say, i rather enjoyed myself…eventually. the crowd was full of manners (as a friend of mine would say). they didn’t pile up on each other. kids were up front as they should be. paths on the sidewalks and crosswalks were kept open with out anyone directing it. when it got hot, room was made for elders and youth in the shade… but it started for me with a little trepidation. a little after 10 some people in front of us moved into the street saying “here they come! here they come!” i thought cool the parade started on time, but nope it was the f-something-or-other fighter jets in formation making a fly over. i hadn’t heard that sound in over 10 years and i have not missed it.
[wichita use to start the fireworks with the b1 bomber, canons, and the 1812 overture synched to the fireworks…i worked like mad to avoid these events.]
then the cops on motorcycles led the parade down the street. my heart sank and my stomach rose to my chest as i braced myself for either 2 hours of this, or a long walk home (i brought my backpack with notebooks and reading material just in case i needed to bail). then a woman walked up to me, a river rafting guide, who thought she knew me, and my guard dropped and i relaxed as the fun floats started to go by.
there wasn’t super overt patriotism. the people in the parades where on point. the environmental groups, the fire departments (for urban and wild fires), the representatives of ashland’s sister city, guadalajara in mexico, the library…the local bookstore dressed as the covers of banned books, the roller derby team, bands, silly folks, oh and we learned that the blacksheep english pub recently got new owners and will stay open!
it was actually a nice way to get to know some of the service organizations of the area. like talent (just up the road a bit) has a pollinator and bee project! i had no idea. there is one of the few health clinics here for immigrants to get the care they need for their application process. it was actually a fun day.
after the parade we walked up-stream of the people flowing to the park, as we searched for a place to have a refreshing cocktail.
when we got home, i was feeling brave, so i thought i would walk up to the movie theater and see wonder woman! maybe i could handle the red, white, and gold of a super hero movie with a woman as the lead hero. at first i was excited. the “older” women as badass amazon warriors on a paradise island?!
but then…i was heart-broken, and not just because it had to have a love story in it (why do they always have to do that? thank you once again madmax for not doing that). it felt like a feminist version of a gay film, in that we will except meritocracy and nods to issues without actually dealing with them, just for some visibility. and yes, visibility is great. i don’t want to make light of that, but….sigh. i’ll take sense8 any day over wonder woman. sure all the characters are flawed, maybe that is what i like about them. they also support one another without question or explanations: queer, trans, thief, hindi, korean female martial fighter, and the sex scenes? hot!….yes, you have to suspend some disbelief to follow, but name a show where you don’t.
so…my take away, if i may, for this “holiday” celabration…i don’t know. i like the idea of community coming together and dressing up and walking down the street like some kind of moving talent show where we are proud of what we do together. that we have a lot of work to do and so much to share. that we are imperfect and flawed, but if we can find these things that bind us together….well we just might survive for a little while. that we can share space, food, music, and good cheer. it doesn’t have to require buying or being some major consumer of capitalistic greed, hate, and delusion. in fact there were more than a few floats in this parade that called out capitalism as the major force of our current struggles in this country.
this is still not a holiday i enjoy. i don’t know if i’ll brave going out in it again. i am grateful that i got to stop at the farmers market and get fresh fruits and veggies for the week. i was able to hide out from the fireworks and snuck to work at 11 pm between the city display and the neighbors’ doing their bit. from the guests at the hotel, i heard that the jazz concert in the park was really good. and the next day when i went out, the streets were not full of firework trash.
maybe i need to make my own holiday….what kind holiday would a queer vegan on an adventure come up with…..hummmm