While America’s national pride has shifted over the past few years, it seems the Fourth of July — and the way one feels about it — is different for each member of the SIUE community.
Eva Schulte, a senior special education major from O’Fallon, Missouri and vice president of communications for the College Democrats of SIUE, said her opinion on the Fourth of July changed with her knowledge of our national history.
“When I was young I was happy to celebrate it, but as I got older and learned more about history, especially my dad as a history teacher, it made me realize how much America preferred only the white narrative of history,” Schulte said.
Delaney Nelson, junior political science major from Peoria, Illinois and member of the College Republicans of SIUE, said her family background has helped her grow more appreciative of the rights Americans have.
“I’ve always loved the Fourth of July. I come from a military family, so it’s very important to me,” Nelson said. “And I still feel that way today, but I think what has changed is I recognize more how important it is as Americans that we have the ability to demand change when it is needed, and that’s something that I love about this country.”
As far as public opinion in general, Nelson said she’s noticed a change in the way Americans express their patriotism — or lack thereof.
“Just recently at the Olympic trials, one of the players, she refused to partake in the national anthem, and I think we’re seeing that more and more where people are speaking out against it,” Nelson said. “But in my opinion, the fact that we have the ability to speak out against the country … that’s important also.”
Schulte said she and others like her tend to celebrate the holiday while acknowledging there are aspects of American history not to be celebrated.
“I feel like people my age who have gone to school, have degrees, who learn to research [and] investigate topics … we still celebrate it, but I feel like we celebrate differently though,” Schulte said. “Like we see what was wrong, but we will still celebrate that, ‘Hey, we did get independence from Britain, we did [become] our own nation and we’re not suppressed anymore.’”
According to a recent Gallup poll, while America’s pride in itself is up from last year, not everyone is equally proud. Political Science Professor and Department Chair Ken Moffett said Americans’ national pride depends slightly on who’s in charge at the time.
“You still have majorities across all the partisan categories who are proud or extremely proud to be an American — that said ... there is a partisan divide there, but it’s a partisan divide that’s conditional on which party is currently in power,” Moffett said. “For example … when Trump was president, you saw a significant dip among Democrats, but [with] Biden becoming president, you’re starting to see that increase.”
As a member of the College Republicans, Nelson said she’s seen national pride vary across party lines while her own has stayed consistent.
“Personally, I don’t think [my national pride] has fluctuated that much over the past few years, but ... the other end of the political spectrum, seeing their pride go down I think almost makes me hold onto mine a little bit more,” Nelson said. “I feel like we almost bring it out in each other, like each side kind of eggs each other on with it.”
While Schulte said her national pride has changed over the years, she said the most noticeable difference for her is more generational than ideological.
“The millennials and the older Gen Zers, we grew up during the market crash ... during the Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan war — they’re all mixed up, it’s still going on to this day,” Schulte said. “We see our country differently than our parents did in the 1980s.”
Nelson said she doesn’t mind how people celebrate, as long as they do so for the right reasons.
“As long as people are remembering the men and women who have died for this country and the true meaning of the Fourth of July, and not just using it as an excuse to get drunk, I think that’s what’s important to me,” Nelson said.
Schulte said she believes there should be restrictions on when fireworks can be shot off, as well as more regulation on the sale of certain fireworks.
“I’m okay with fireworks the third, fourth and fifth, but I hate when they’re weeks in advance [or] weeks afterwards, especially when you have dogs and it gives them anxiety, or people with PTSD,” Schulte said. “So I just feel like there should be a limit on when the fireworks can be let off, and then what types can be bought by regular people — because I’m cool with people buying sparklers and having fun that way, but when it’s just like a fireworks show in the middle of your street, that’s a little excessive.”
Both Nelson and Moffett said while they understand the concerns of upsetting dogs and veterans with PTSD, they do not feel strongly that the way others celebrate the holiday should necessarily be changed.
On Twitter, The Alestle launched a poll asking if anyone had problems with the way the Fourth of July was celebrated; 80 percent of respondents said they did not, and while 20 percent said they did, they did not specify the problems they had. Give us your thoughts about the Fourth on The Alestle’s Facebook page.