Another Fourth and has passed and firework displays have lost their place as an acceptable social observance. Everything is on the table, and it is time to evaluate what we are celebrating.
Recorded history lacks a scientific method, and as such cannot be relied upon as a source for consistency or guidance. Blow up George Santayana’s celebrated euphemism. We are condemned to repeat the past, but not because we cannot remember it. We are made of it. History is more an exercise in literary reflection, a point of view subject to revision where yesterday’s heroes become today’s scoundrels.
Our turn-coating from adoration to revulsion is a reaction to our past and the uncomfortable realization that we were mistaken, taken for a ride, sold down the river. We play critic to our heritage, panning our tradition of bad practice while creating our own shortcomings that will meet the same fate in the future.
This is our messy way of life.
We are as guilty as our predecessors. We live by selected strips ripped from a perforated moral fabric. Our only way to survive is to reflect on what we or others have done wrong, and not to feed off it. Rather, we must hold fast to the truth of who we are, rejecting the social and tactical weaponry of hostility, force, hate, dismissal, anger, retribution.
These tactics set an irrevocable endgame that terminates growth and slaughters transformation. We are closer to our truth when we care, forgive, reconcile, and unselfishly celebrate one another. Choosing a response that empathizes instead of calculates, accepts rather than refuses, negotiates instead of denies makes us whole again. We can no longer succumb to the measure of our acquisitions or the chokehold of our oppression. We must end our penchant to compete in how creatively we can injure each other.
Our willingness to reconcile empowers us beyond any circumstance, any challenge, any shortfall.
This is how we can embrace the holiday, recalibrated to include all of us.
John’s works have appeared in Adelaide Magazine, Poor Yorick Literary Journal, the Raven’s Perch, and The San Antonio Review. He holds an MFA in Creative & Professional Writing from Western Connecticut State University. His backstage memoir, Just Off, Stage Right, will be released in September 2021.