4th of July: The gun culture
The newly-elected President of the American Club of Christchurch shares her memories of celebrating 4th of July, the American Independence Day, and expresses concerns on the prevalent gun culture back home
First, a disclaimer: I have only been president of the American Club for a few weeks, and could not possibly speak for all of the Americans in Christchurch, let alone elsewhere. The following are some things that have been on my mind as we held the Fourth of July this year.
It feels strange to celebrate the Fourth of July in the middle of winter. In the United States Independence Day occurs in the pinnacle of summer; in New Zealand, the Fourth of July is just another midwinter day.
And that is only the start of the opposites.
If you are lucky enough to be in the United States on the Fourth of July, you could be mistaken for thinking that every American is a patriot. Everyone has the day off. There are banners, flags and paper plates with red, white and blue as far as the eye can see. Every park across the country is loaded to the brim with picnics, potlucks, barbecues with hot dogs and hamburgers, the screams of children chasing each other with fists clenching cotton candy, games featuring bean bags and balls. There are endless lazy swims in lakes, rivers, pools and the ocean, depending on location. Fireworks light the night sky after a long lazy sunset. Every town has its own fireworks, and you can often see pockets exploding far off in the distance.
Here, the American Club of Christchurch hosted a potluck in the Oxford Terrace Baptist Church. A few dozen mingled for a few hours, sharing stories of what brought them to New Zealand, then dissipated back into a cold midwinter Saturday.
It’s a snapshot of the binary extremes that have come to define the lives of United States citizens who have chosen to make our lives, at least for a little while, on the other side of the world.
New Zealand has given us the gift of perspective. New Zealand too has ties to the once mighty British empire, but with a dramatically different end. The United States also started off as a colony, but after not long resented paying taxes to a land that they felt no longer supported them. The Declaration of Independence asserted the colonies’ break from Britain in 1776 – a step New Zealand has not taken.
That’s not to say one is right and the other is wrong. It feels strange to celebrate with such unbridled enthusiasm a revolution that is still used to defend Americans’ right to bear arms, as broadcasters tally senseless death after senseless death occurs with weapons our forefathers never could have imagined.
In New Zealand, these news broadcasts are one of the few pieces of home that we regularly see. We experience America from the outside now, as New Zealanders do, while trying to keep at the front of our minds the memories that remind us more goes on in our homeland than senseless violence and death.
- Hannah Herchenbach
President, American Club of Christchurch