The United States of Grilling

Chances are you ate a hamburger or hot dog yesterday; you probably consumed three or four throughout the day. It is an Independence Day tradition, after all: barbecuing pounds upon pounds of meat. The thick smell of charcoal and the blaze of open flames have become synonymous with July 4. But why?

How did grilling and consuming our weight in hot dogs become the pinnacle of the American independence holiday? Despite our touting of patriotism and love for our country, Americans have lost sight of the importance of July 4 because it has become such a commercialized holiday. While we do not need to get rid of fireworks and barbecues, we do need to ensure that we commemorate our country’s history in the process.

July 4 should celebrate freedom from an oppressive foreign government and the formation of an independent nation. Budding Americans sacrificed so much during the Revolutionary War; they desired nothing more than the opportunity to rule their own land and form their own government. The Declaration of Independence, signed 235 years ago, is what gave us the rights we so enjoy, and what outlined the goals of our government. Our current celebrations do not honor this momentous accomplishment at all.

Now, it seems July 4 is all about getting drunk and eating as many burgers as you can without vomiting. Simply type “How to celebrate 4th of July” into Google, and you will get a plethora of grilling recipes, fireworks times for your area, and picnic locations. Frankly, I am not seeing the connection between our country’s freedom and “normal” July 4 activities.

According to a recent study, about 68.3 million cases of beer are sold and more than 74 million Americans barbecue on Independence Day. You might even be considered anti-American or unpatriotic if you did not celebrate yesterday in this "traditional" way. By not buying and setting off hundreds of fireworks, potentially blasting a limb off in the process, you could be seen as lacking the “holiday spirit” because you are defying tradition. We are sold into the idea of what July 4 should look like.

The study also concluded that 26% of Americans do not know what country America won its independence from. I am not surprised by this statistic, considering how the celebrations have manifested themselves.

To get ourselves back on track, we need to remember our history and how this country came to be. I am not saying to get rid of all of our celebrations; I am saying shift the focus from having the best barbecue to actually celebrating our independence. This can be done in multitude of simple ways, such as visiting your local history museum, having a lively debate with your friends about U.S. history while you grill, or taking a moment of silence for our troops while the fireworks blast away.

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