As millions of people celebrated July 4th, America’s Independence Day, one could not help but ask if their festivities focused on the historical event that severed the relationship between America and Britain, creating a free United States of America. Or, has it become an annual day-party event with no connection to the past except for the traditional parades, cookouts, fireworks, and, of course, the disgusting annual Nathan’s hot dog eating contest now in its 51st year?
While red, white and blue flags were waving, and fireworks lit up the sky commemorating the Americans’ high-spirited love for their country, a recent Gallop poll indicates that American pride is at a near record low, and it has remained the same since 2022.
According to Gallop, when U.S. adults were asked in January 2001, “55% of U.S. adults were extremely proud to be American. However, pride soon intensified after 9/11, with extreme pride ranging from 65% to 70% between 2002 and 2004. The percentage of Americans expressing extreme pride declined in 2005 and in subsequent years, but it remained at the majority level through 2017. Since 2018, extreme pride has consistently been below that, averaging 42%.”
The question, then, is why American pride is so low. The Gallop poll distinguishes groups by age and politics. Younger people have less pride than older ones, and Republicans seem more proud of America than Democrats.
If race was included, there’s no doubt that the recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action would put many Black Americans firmly in line with the least proud. And they, too, might ask what Frederick Douglass, the famous newspaper publisher, abolitionist and orator, asked when he delivered his famous 4th of July speech in 1852 in celebration of the 76th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
Douglass asked, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth Of July?” Among his many points, he acknowledged, “Citizens, your fathers made good that resolution. They succeeded; and today you reap the fruits of their success. The freedom gained is yours; and you, therefore, may properly celebrate this anniversary. The 4th of July is the first great fact in your nation’s history — the very ring bolt in the chain of your yet undeveloped destiny.”
But then he retorted, “Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.”
Undeniably, America has come a long way since 1852, and Americans still have a journey ahead to establish and reignite pride within its people. The proof will be seen at the polls next year.