As a child, of course, the fourth of July was always an exciting holiday. Sparklers were wielded in great loops, drawing our names in the darkness until they sputtered out and stabbed into water filled coffee cans. The neighbor boy up the street lit firecrackers and jumping jacks, which frightened me with their loud chaos.
This was all I knew about the fourth for a long time, and even once I began learning about Independence Day at school, I didn’t really get much about it. We didn’t, for example, talk about US imperialism or Manifest Destiny or the concept of indigenous peoples in a newly discovered land. No. I learned what any good American child learned: American exceptionalism, the Bill of Rights, and the glorious idea that all men are created equal. I believed those lessons completely, only doing the work to inspect and consider these lessons as an adult.