5 Reasons Why the 4th of July is Difficult to Get Excited About

by Mark Votava


As I have become more aware of the history of our nation it does not make me proud to call myself an American.  We have murdered Native Americans to take this land, enslaved African Americans to build our economy and have recently given corporations the rights of a human person which has resulted in major injustices in the world.  Our country is the only one to have ever used a nuclear weapon upon another country.  We have become colonial as we have dominated the world with our Western way of life destroying beautiful cultures in the process.

This makes me sad to call myself an American.  So as I live through the fireworks and attend a BBQ with friends this year I will also try to be in solidarity with all those who suffer because of our freedom here in the United States.  I will live to be the change I want to see in the world.  I will get up another day and pursue love, grace and humility within myself as an expression to the world.

I am grateful in many ways of having the freedom to pursue life in the way I think is best for me here in America, but some of my difficulties with the celebration of our independence on the 4th of July are:

1. We have used our freedom to become violent, kill and exploit others around the world. This is really what our country is founded on.  There would be no independence of the United States if we were not colonial.

2. We have used our freedom to pursue consumerism and neglect hospitality, social capital and neighborliness with others.  Our families, education and entertainment experiences have taught our lives a hyper-individualism that is all about being “successful” by making money to buy things.  This is often times more important than building healthy long-lasting friendships in life.

3. We have used our freedom to pursue countless hours of entertainment while neglecting personal growth.  How many hours do we give to watching sports, TV, movies and surfing the internet?  This will make it difficult to become intentional with reading, silence, friendships in community, solitude, reflection, exercise and authentic conversation or any others means of personal growth.

4. We have used our freedom to claim liberty and justice for all when the poor are oppressed, marginalized and ignored in our country.  We need to practice having the imagination to see Christ in the marginalized among us.  The United States claims liberty and justice for all, but what about those who work jobs without livable wages, the mentally ill, people suffering from abuse, immigrants and those of other races who become oppressed because they are not white?

5. We have used our freedom to celebrate our independence over interdependence in a local community.  We have become a people who embody an individualism that has created extreme fragmentation, loneliness and unnecessary stress to our lives.  Living above place is not in our consciousness.

What do you like or not like about the 4th of July?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist