Reflecting on the Meaning of Independence Day Growing Up in Appalachia, Ohio

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by Teresa Mills, CHEJ Organizer at Large/Small Grants Coordinator 
As a small child growing up in the hills of Appalachia Ohio, I was not aware that communities sponsored July 4th parades, or fireworks.  Our local drive-in theater did shoot off a few fireworks between movies; so my aunt and cousins would all pile into a car and go to the drive in, a major treat for my cousins and myself. 
I remember laying on a blanket looking up at the sky in anticipation of what was about to take place.   As our childhood excitement grew and grew, our aunt was more than happy that she brought a blanket and that we were out of her car.  
As the first firework went off there were screams of joy and excitement followed by the silence of our childish glee.  We had become amazed and almost hypnotized by the sights and sounds of what we were told was the day we celebrated our independence.  I recall my cousins looking at each other with confused looks and one cousin asking, “What does independence mean?” Our poor aunt tried in vain to teach a bunch of rowdy six and seven-year-old girls what “Independence” meant and why we celebrate the day.  I think we listened to her for about thirty seconds before starting to chase each other around the parked cars in the lot.  
A few years later I learned what Independence Day was.  At least what it was supposed to be. You know there is always a fine line between what we are told and what is reality.  Growing up in a political family in Appalachia I was always told not to worry, the politicians would take care of things. Wait, what, you mean my uncle, my brother, and my grandfather would see that everything was ok, REALLY! I knew these people and knew that they didn’t know a whole lot more than I did.  I saw politics play out in a small town and felt that this was not what I would call independence. It was more like a dictatorship. “Do as I say, because I said so” was the response to all my questions.  
Today, things have only gotten worse.  Every time we turn around, some elected suit is taking away yet another one of our civil and human rights.  We are seeing fewer and fewer chances to participate in our own government, both federal and state. I think we all remember when the state governments were complaining that the federal government had too much control.  Now look at it. Today, it is many of our states, influenced by corporate power/dollars, that have turned around and taken local control away from our cities, towns and villages. Boy now isn’t that the “pot calling the kettle black”! 
America! Wake up this 4th of July!  Celebrate the day and then on the 5th, do something to help take back control over your own government from corporate America!  Don’t allow the same “Do as I say because I said so” to continue. Stand up! Raise your voice!  Some say that our voice has been taken away; I believe we gave our voices away by not standing up to those who hold us down.  
Get mad.

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