Itndependence Day comes at a moment when America is in chaos over Jan. 6, insurrection hearings, awash with turmoil over high court decisions on guns and abortions and trying to keep the shared bonds that hold it all together.
Yet many also see cause to celebrate: The pandemic continues to be on the wane and, despite its faults, America’s democracy survives.
“I think many of us are feeling conflicted about celebrating 4th of July right now,” obstacle race champion and attorney Amelia Boone tweeted as the week gave way to the long holiday weekend.
In her eyes patriotism is also about fighting for change, she said, adding, “I’m not giving up on the US.”
That sentiment is no doubt shared by millions who on Monday will be celebrating the nation’s 246th birthday and anniversary of independence from English rule.
Learn more Juneteenth’s Vision of Freedom Expresses American Values Better Than the Fourth of July’s
It’s a day for taking off work, flocking to parades, devouring hot dogs and burgers at backyard barbecues and gathering under a canopy of stars and exploding fireworks — in many cases for the first time in three years amid easing coronavirus precautions.
Baltimore’s Independence Day festivities are back after a two year hiatus. This delights residents such as Steven Williams.
“I used to actually be up there every year. Then it stopped,” Williams told WBAL-TV. “I haven’t seen them in a couple of years.”
From New York, Seattle, Chicago and Dallas to Dallas to Dallas to Chicago to Dallas to Dallas to Chicago, colorful displays large and small will illuminate the night skies. Some, however, might forgo them, especially those in wildfire-prone and drought-stricken regions.
Phoenix is also again going without fireworks — not because of the pandemic or fire concerns but due to supply-chain issues.
Learn more Fireworks: A Fourth of July Tradition
Some of the newer citizens will be sworn in citizenship during emotional ceremonies throughout the country. They are eligible to vote at the next midterm election.
These are difficult times. There is an economic recession. The national psyche remains raw after mass shootings such as those at the Texas elementary school or New York grocery store.
Recent Supreme Court rulings that overturned the Constitution right to abortion, and struck down an unconstitutional New York law restricting who can carry guns in public places have exposed sharp social and political divides.
But for many, July 4 is also a chance to set aside political differences and to celebrate unity, reflecting on the revolution that gave rise to history’s longest-lived democracy.
Learn more The Fourth of July Is America’s Birthday, But Constitution Day Marks Its Coming of Age
Eli Merritt, a political historian at Vanderbilt University whose upcoming book traces the fraught founding of the United States in 1776, said that “there’s always something to divide or unite us.”
But he sees the Jan. 6 hearings probing last year’s storming of the U.S. Capitol as a reason for hope, an opportunity to rally behind democratic institutions. Even though not all Americans or their elected representatives agree with the committee’s work, Merritt is heartened by the fact that it’s at least somewhat bipartisan with some Republicans joining in.
“Moral courage as a locus for Americans to place hope,” he said, “the willingness to stand up for what is right and true in spite of negative consequences to oneself. That is an essential glue of constitutional democracy.”
Here are more must-read stories from TIME