What We Get Wrong About “Independence Day”

Some folks whispered and some folks talked

But everybody looked the other way

And when time ran out there was no one about

On Independence Day.

Each year, I listen to Martina McBride’s song ‘Independence Day’ to honor the Fourth of July.

There are some good lyrics and wordplay fusing our national independence themes with the devastation of alcohol abuse and domestic violence. Many people don’t listen to it closely enough to understand that, but …

This year, I’m struck by the lyrics above – the isolation and loneliness that drive survivors to make inconceivable choices. I recently wrote about the ways in which our childhood neighbors and family members turned their backs on and my brother.

But there’s another line “And sent me to the county home” that brings home how this child survivor of violence is cast out with no family member or friend to take her in after losing her whole world.

Big leap here. At the Founding of this nation, everybody looked the other way, too. They looked away from slavery, from the eradication of Indigenous communities, from women’s plight, from all the human neighbors whose lived experiences made this Founding possible with the absolute least liberty in return.

Fast forward, the Southern border. We send kids to the county home (or worse) when their parents try to escape violence.

The fate of the children is almost a throwaway line even though in this song, she’s narrating the story for us. And a throwaway part of our nation. We want to pounce on the glorious soaring references to Jesus and Jefferson while disregarding the actual meaning of the song. So maybe the throwaway line is deliberate? We don’t really know the fates of Mama and the girl narrator. We are simply in this moment of horrific violence and desperation. The songwriter doesn’t want to let us off of that emotional peak from the chorus, to give us resolution because we need to live within that stasis of what should be

and the socially enforced responses to violence in our community

“Let the whole world know that today is a day of reckoning”

By the time that the firemen come

They just put out the flames

And took down some names

Read this piece from Rolling Stone examining the song on its 25th anniversary in 2019. It is worth considering how violence (and alcohol abuse) is deeply embedded in our nation’s official narrative of liberation even thought we don’t know it. Or we choose to not know it.

Roll the stone away
It’s Independence Day.



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