This 4th of July I’m celebrating Americana, cause I’ve got some issues with America.
America’s a hot mess that talks a big game but can never seem to really get their shit together. I need to set boundaries with America, or else they will suck me dry of any spirit or joy. An emotional vampire, toxic environment, straight-up infuriating devil I know. So, yeah, America – we have issues, and I don’t want you to think that my eating BBQ, watching colorful explosives, and enjoying my federal holiday off of work is because we’re friends.
No – I’m celebrating in the name of Americana.
I am celebrating the culture of my home country and place of origin. As a biracial person in America, I’ve reflected on the fact I have no other country. The roots of my family tree trace back to islands in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. So, I drank the “melting pot” Kool-Aid of the 90s cause it affirmed I had a place in this world. Before I knew to be critical of America, I had already fallen in love with the mythology of Americana. I carry a sense of pride over the ideology behind our nation and belief that all men are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights, which among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Men being shorthand for human beings. Men being an antiquated generalized pronoun placeholder representing all people regardless of race, gender or gender identity, and sexual orientation.
To me, Americana is Chuck Berry and the birth of rock n roll. Two immigrants, Levis Strauss and Jacob Youphes coming together to create modern jeans/denim. Mr. Rodgers, Charlie Brown, the work of American puppeteer Jim Henson. Hamburgers, coca cola, and route 66. Disco and large shopping malls. Hollywood glamour and apple pie wholesomeness. All the elements that influence and inform a unique cutural experience and blossomed while America fluctuated between getting it right and horribly wrong. Since my experience on this planet is geographically from an American perspective, I’m curious about the cultural nuances that will be picked up and woven into the tapestry of Americana in another hundred years.
My Bachan’s birthday is July 4th, so growing up, the 4th always had this extra special place in my heart. After birthday cake, we would break out lawn chairs and settle in to watch my Dad and Uncle take turns setting off a box of legal fireworks purchased from a church parking lot. And I would rock a red, white, and blue ensemble for the occasion. After my Bachan passed away, going up to her grave for a picnic became the 4th of July ritual.
At eighteen and the start of her adult life, when one gains a sense of freedom and grows into their autonomy, she was sent to live behind barbed wire in a Japanese Internment Camp by her country. Like me, she was born in America, but since she was of Japanese descent, her freedoms as an American citizen were violated. The trauma my Bachan experienced is not easily healed, and she never discussed her experience. After the war, she wanted to stay in America but was forced to move to Japan by her father. An American woman in a foreign country, it would take her eight years to get back home.
At the end of the day, this hot mess called America is my country and home. I’m rooting for you and hold onto hope that with each decade you’ll progressive forward in a more positive manner than negative. Americana is the sugar that helps one swallow America. It’s what my Bachan loved and celebrated every 4th, the fireworks clearly going off just for her. As a woman, she appreciated that American culture afforded her more opportunities. And her husband, a fellow American she met in Japan, loved country music, westerns, and baseball. Two Americans of Japanese descent writing their own great American story. I spent every 4th with my side of the family that looked a lot different than the homogenous American family sold to us. Still, we couldn’t have been more made in the USA than the manufacturing label on the American Dream.
Happy 4th of July. I hope you’re able to enjoy your slice of whatever Americana means to you.
And remember, unless your Native American, you’re a visitor on this land – so have some respect.
It’s no surprise that the expansion and building of America was done by some well-meaning people and some really heinous people. We can’t change the past; and if it was changed, I don’t know where that leaves me. But it doesn’t hurt to acknowledge our f*d up colonial background, so be humble, and let’s try to right the wrongs of the past. Know better, do better – it’s that simple.