La piratería y el pillaje y los hot dogs: reflections on July 4th

Bandera de Estados Unidos, yo no te saludo, porque aunque sea cierto que tú eres símbolo de una patria libra y soberana, en Puerto Rico representas la piratería y el pillaje. -- Pedro Albizu Campos
English translation of Pedro Albizu Campos’ words: “Flag of the United States, I do not salute you, because while it is true that you are a symbol of a free and sovereign country, in Puerto Rico you represent piracy and pillage.”

Right when I was starting to wrap up work today, I saw Maegan post this image of Pedro Albizu Campos on Facebook. Her accompanying words: “It’s hard to celebrate the freedom of a country that prevents the freedom of so many others.” (See Maegan’s post on VivirLatino for more of her July 4th reflections as a Puerto Rican born in Queens — they resonate with me & my own experience deeply.)

I shared it on my wall as well, even though I was a little nervous about what some of my Puerto Rican family members, born both stateside and on the island, might think of it.

An aside: the May First/People Link server that this site is hosted on a server named “albizu.” Makes me happy.


I emerged from our office/library/storage space/dumping ground/guestroom to find that M. had already done laundry, gone to the grocery store, taken out both grills so we could choose which one would work best, set up the plastic chairs, prepped food, and cleaned up the house a bit. All in the first few hours of her day off. I started trying to hustle to try to do something resembling my fair share, which of course meant calming the fuck down first. I get unreasonably stressed out about throwing any event that involves prepping or cooking food. Rock Band, beer & ordering food in, now that I can handle.

Any excuse to gather with friends is good by me, though. Even if it’s a fraught excuse like July 4th. Sometimes you take advantage of this sort of holiday (we could all be off!) and try to tune the bad shit out. Sometimes little symbolic and entirely inconsequential rituals of rebellion can help. “Imma wear a black t-shirt today, damn it!”


A successful barbecue (besides melting part of the grill, oops) and at least five mosquito bites later, we migrated back inside and into the cool, soothing arms of air conditioning. When you sit on our couch, the big, beautiful flatscreen — product of my Dad’s jubilant slot machine jackpot at the beginning of the year that he died — beckons. It was only a matter of time. Two of our friends are Katy Perry fans, and she was performing on the Macy’s Fireworks Extravaganza or whatever they call it, so on it went.

First Kenny Chesney was on, so we got to keep it on mute. Then Katy Perry came on, and she was performing especially for The Troops™. She was wearing a sparkly flag dress so I made my usual snarky remark about how a real patriot would never desecrate the flag like that. There were some very excited Marines jumping up and down for her and we created a gay narrative about how they could now be openly gay agents of imperialism, capitalism and death soldiers. But even with the sarcasm, there was some sort of recognition, some teeny, tenuous connection formed.That’s how they get you — you start identifying with it even just a little and it starts worming into your head. I wanted to tweet or FB post “WHY IS THE PROPAGANDA ON MY TV” but didn’t.

An aside: M.2 reminded us that more than 80% of the US military is under the age of 21. I felt shocked, which is pretty silly. Of course. But damn. So young.

Luckily the fireworks started pretty soon thereafter.

It reminded me of one July 4th that we spent at my Tio Bobby’s place. I was really little. It felt like the party went on forever but I’m still pretty sure it was the 4th and not New Year’s because I remember the fireworks on the TV and being told how close we were to them in Englewood, but no ball dropping.

I had a lot more fun watching the fireworks show then than I did today. Don’t get me wrong; I love fireworks. They give me chills every time in person, but it’s just not the same on TV. (Even the magical jackpot TV.) Whenever the fireworks were accompanied by patriotic songs I occupied myself elsewhere. The armed forces medley made me positively flee and when I heard the words “I’m proud to be an American” blare from the speakers I thought I might need to cleanse my house afterward or something. They did sucker me in twice, though: once with Ray Charles’ rendition of “America,” and once with Whitney Houston’s “One Moment In Time.” Yeah, that one got chills from me, as always happens when Whitney hits the high points of her crescendos.

All in all, not so comfy for me. But I didn’t want to be a rude self-righteous little shit and I didn’t want to make my friends uncomfortable or spoil folks’ fun so I only let a little of my disdain and grump leak out while it was going on.

Because that’s apparently what I’ve been taught to think I’d be if I said “nah, this stuff is making my skin crawl and I feel uncomfortable in my own home and I think I actually have good reason to ask that we not watch it.” I’d be a rude self-righteous little shit.

Damn. Their tricks are good.


When you watch television without DVR, you get to see the stupidity they’re putting in commercials these days. But then your DVR lets you take great photos of the stupidity for the world to see.

This one is from a heinously awful commercial from McDonalds where a white artist gets so inspired by eating a spicy chicken nugget thing that he starts painting a mural in homage on the wall of his huge loft. He invites his cool-looking queer-ish friends of color over to admire his work and eat some more spicy chicken nugget things. It’s all about the BIG SPICE. Or is that…

McDonalds ad for Big Spic... hey wtf!Thanks to OMG (one of the few people in the room to whom that particular slur would NOT be applied, amusingly) for exclaiming over what he’d seen so we could rewind and laugh at it. It happens a few times in the commercial, actually.

Then this came up. This is apparently some new show on NBC. By the chaste, barely affectionate way they’re holding hands we can only assume that those two homosexuals on the left are legally married.

Ad for The New Normal, a TV show
A bunch of very white people front and center with one blonde Black woman in an outfit reminiscent of a uniform hidden in the background. Nah, that’s the OLD normal. Plus some gays. #pinkwashing

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