While July is not designated as one of the “heritage” months, we might reflect on what “independence” and “freedom” mean in terms of multiculturalism and learn more about our own national holidays, including Friendship Day, and also learn something about Canada Day.
Independence Day, also called the Fourth of July or July 4th, is the annual celebration of nationhood in the United States. It commemorates the passage of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, and was celebrated this last Sunday.
According to professor of history David L. Waldstreicher, “During the early years of the republic, Independence Day was commemorated with parades, oratory, and toasting in ceremonies that celebrated the existence of the new nation. These rites played an equally important role in the evolving federal political system. With the rise of informal political parties, they provided venues for leaders and constituents to tie local and national contests to independence and the issues facing national polity.
“With the growth and diversification of American society, the Fourth of July commemoration became a patriotic tradition which many groups—not just political parties—sought to claim. Abolitionists, women’s rights advocates, the temperance movement, and opponents of immigration (nativists) all seized the day and its observance, in the process often declaring that they could not celebrate with the entire community while an un-American perversion of their rights prevailed.
“With the rise of leisure, the Fourth of July emerged as a major midsummer holiday. The prevalence of heavy drinking and the many injuries caused by setting off fireworks prompted reformers of the late 19th and the early 20th century to mount a Safe and Sane Fourth of July movement. It remains a potent symbol of national power and of specifically American qualities—even the freedom to stay at home and barbecue.”
How do “independence” and “freedom” relate to the importance of respect for all? Certainly, we can all work on our freedom from prejudice, our independence from an obsessive focus on materialism, and an endorsement of beneficial and altruistic qualities that help to bring about unity.
And what about our neighbor to the north, with its separate history? Canada Day, observed on July 1st, is a national holiday marking the anniversary of Confederation in 1867 when the British North America Act came into effect. It was originally known as Dominion Day until it was renamed in 1982.
Celebrations were originally organized at the local or municipal level and included a wide array of activities, including bonfires, picnics, sporting events, parades, pageants, and fireworks. It became an opportunity for communities to express their visions of Canadian identity, and the place of their community within the country. People could also express concerns about the treatment of individual provinces and marginalized communities. In British Columbia, members of the Chinese and Japanese communities in the early 20th century contributed floats to Dominion Day parades, and members of Indigenous communities participated in sporting events and musical performances.
In the mid-1920s, British Columbia’s Chinese communities organized Chinese Humiliation Day as a counterpoint to Dominion Day to protest the 1923 Chinese Immigration Act that blocked most Chinese immigration to Canada. Members of the community wore badges reading “Remember the Humiliation,” organized speeches, and distributed leaflets. Throughout the 1970s–1990s, a clear emphasis on bilingualism and multiculturalism was maintained in federal messaging about Canadian identity. Representations of Indigenous peoples shifted substantially over these decades, moving from an emphasis on assimilation to a greater celebration of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit cultures, including performances in Indigenous languages on Parliament Hill by the 1990s.
Since the late 1980s, Canada Day festivities in the capital, Ottawa, have included formal ceremonies on Parliament Hill, with speeches by dignitaries, an inspection of the military guard by the governor-general, and elements such as music, dance, and fireworks, all televised on the CBC and Radio-Canada.
Another great thing to celebrate: July 30 is International Friendship Day, and there are various dates for National Friendship Day, including August 1. But why not celebrate it all year long?
First proposed in 1958 in Paraguay, it has been promoted by the greeting cards industry, and now on the Internet, particularly in India, Bangladesh, and Malaysia. Mobile phones, digital communication, and social media have contributed to popularize the custom.
We may have many friends, but we may find that most of our good friends are similar to us. Perhaps they are of the same racial or ethnic group, educational level, socio-economic status, or religious or political persuasions. We tend to feel safe with the familiar, but how much richer our lives can be when we widen the circle! Our life experience will always be limited if we only associate with those who already share our beliefs, cultural or racial background, and experiences.
Through friendship, we can contribute to fundamental shifts that are urgently needed to achieve peace and stability and generate interest in creating a better world where all are united for the greater good.
Here’s a quotation that might inspire us: “If you desire with all your heart, friendship with every race on earth, your thought, spiritual and positive, will spread; it will become the desire of others, growing stronger and stronger, until it reaches the minds of all.” —Abdu’l-Baha
The multi-cultural commission wishes to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of all kinds in Duncanville, and we appreciate everyone’s efforts to do so as well. At the very least, we can enjoy the summer season and be open to new friendships.
May July be a meaningful, productive, fun, safe, liberating, and friendship-oriented month for all!
Article Submitted by Anne Perry, Commissioner
Multicultural Social Engagement Partnership (MSEP)
Learn more about the Multicultural Social Engagement Partnership.