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From an objective standpoint, I guess there's nothing technically wrong with the Fourth of July. There's beer, loud noises, hot sun, and food, and those things tend to be pretty difficult to mess up. But there's always been one big problem that I've had with our nation's birthday: It's too. Damn. Wussy.

Luckily, I have five plans that are all about taking things that aren't quite working about Fourth of July, and giving them that little burst of madness they need to really shine. And all these plans are as terrible as they are ... uh, terrible. These plans are just terrible. That's the only adjective, and for that reason, let's do the shit out of them. After all, it's our goddamn birthday.

5
Fireworks

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I hate to be controversial, but America is the greatest country in the world. Partially because of our impressive mountains and rich culture, but primarily because you live there (in the business, we call sentences like that "pandering"). And that's why the fireworks suck: because we deserve better.

The reason we celebrate the country's birthday with fireworks is, basically, because we've always done it that way. The founding fathers were all "Big shiny lights in the sky? Capital!" and we just went with it for 250 years. That's like if you celebrated every birthday by recklessly driving to the hospital where you were born and taking a bath in amniotic fluid, and also you were 250 years old.

And it's not like they're particularly impressive. Let's be honest here: Fireworks are lights in the sky accompanied by light popping sounds and the vague smell of burning. That may have been impressive to people in the 18th century who slept in dirt hovels and took a "day off" whenever the wolves decided not to attack, but to someone who just finished a Call of Duty binge and knows what LSD is, this is nothing. With 15 seconds of moderate effort, a modern teen can use their iPhone to scrounge up a hi-res image of Christina Hendricks' bosom or Leonardo DiCaprio's ... squinty eyes (I don't actually know what women are attracted to). Why would they give a shit about lights in the sky?

How to Save It

Fireworks are only interesting when they go wrong. We'd all rather watch fireworks go horribly, tragically wrong than the alternative (fucking boredom), so why not admit it? I watched that boat fire in person last year, and it was the best part of the holiday for me, because something of value was destroyed and I watched it happen.

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So why not just model the Fourth of July off The Purge? That may not be the birthday our country needs, but by God, it's the birthday it deserves.

4
Barbecue Food

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Again, I don't want to create the wrong impression, because I love eating barbecued food. And I love barbecuing! Hell, I even love barbecues. I just hate Fourth of July barbecues, because for the most part, they're run by people who don't actually barbecue -- they're just doing it out of a weird kind of faux-fun semi-patriotic obligation. See, to barbecue is to engage in an ancient and hallowed tradition, and if you don't give that tradition the attention it deserves, you will suck at it. Every hot dog will be charred until it resembles the kind of penis you'd find poking through the hole in a truck stop bathroom. Every hamburger will be that special kind of shitty that only a poorly made hamburger can really, truly be. All that beer will be light beer, despite the fact that light beer has no reason to exist in this world.

And all that is assuming that the food actually gets made, which is only if you're lucky. The number one mistake made by amateur barbecuists is not having enough food, or getting too much of the vegetarian option so that party guests with potentially lethal cases of the drunchies are forced to scarf down tofu dogs and must find other means to satisfy their lust for sweet, roasted flesh.

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Fun fact about non-vegetarians: We all own murder-bows.

As a side note, isn't it kinda weird that the word "barbecue" comes from an Arawak word for a wooden framework for sleeping on? Doesn't that seem kinda weird to anybody else? That we're all, "Hey, guys, what if we incinerate your culture, build our own on top of the charred carcass of yours, and then use one of your own words in our celebrations of doing that?" Like it's the biggest teabagging in history? No, I'm just being a grumpy jerk? Fine. Next section.

How to Save It

Let's stop pussy-footing around this issue and just go all in. Begin prepping your barbecue months earlier by raising a pig, a cow, and six chickens. Name each of them after your favorite fictional characters. Love them as you would a pet. Let them sleep in your bed. Then, when the time comes, Murder Hicks, Newt and Ripley in those horrible fucked up ways that make meat all the more delicious. For it is not the culinary arts, but a twisted marriage of love and pain that makes a true meal.

But there's one terrible, terrible part of the barbecue that deserves its own section, and that is ...

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3
Paper Plates

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Whoever invented paper plates is the Stalin of dishware, because the amount of food wasted by these flimsy pieces of shit collapsing into a mass of soggy uselessness right in the middle of your third bite could easily have fed all those people he intentionally starved to death. Do the math. I'm not wrong.

Heartbreak comes in many forms, readers. Heartbreak is a girl leaving you for your best friend. Heartbreak is a sequel to your favorite video game that makes a minor change to the game mechanics. Heartbreak is an empty whiskey glass. But true heartbreak -- heartbreak that stays with you like a scar on your very soul -- is watching a hamburger grow into maturity on the grill, its outer flesh darkening in the heat, its oils bubbling like cow fat, because that's what it is. Heartbreak is gently -- nay, tenderly -- laying a slice of cheddar cheese upon that glistening beauty, and watching as the cheese relaxes against the flame's kiss, molds itself to that roasted cow-butt. Heartbreak is sliding that perfectly cooked -- nay, crafted -- slab of bovine-muscle onto a spatula, singing a sweet lullaby to it as you guide it toward your bun, and then watching its weight snap the paper plate into an abrupt 90 degree L shape, dropping your burger into the dirt where it is instantly devoured by ants, I hate this goddamn holiday so much.

How to Save It

Starting right now, spend an hour a day doing push-ups on a bed of broken glass, and another hour pouring acid (actual acid) into your mouth. By next July 4, your hands will be wrapped in impenetrable callous, and your mouth will be a desolate wasteland. You will be able to plunge your hand directly into the barbecue pit, wrap your gnarled claws around the burger of your choice, and cram it directly into your gaping food-hole. Never break eye contact with your petrified family members. Never.

Or just buy real plates.

2
The Patriotism (And the Snarky Anti-Patriotism)

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Don't take this personally. I'm not saying that you, personally, hate freedom. I'm just saying that, on average, the American people are getting less patriotic and less happy with their freedom, which is actually something science can measure and not a sardonic misinterpretation of data by an Internet comedy writer. The quality of America's freedom has declined. And speaking just for myself, words like "freedom" and "'Merica!" have become jokes, sarcastic declarations, rather than something we actually want to celebrate on a grand scale. Hell, the most famously controversial thing President George W. Bush ever did was called "The PATRIOT Act." The words "freedom" and "patriot" have, for my entire adult life, been less about their dictionary definitions and more about being warning signs that the person speaking either has a weird, neo-conservative agenda, or is making fun of it.

But the weirdest display of patriotism that happens every Fourth of July is when people dress up in the American flag -- even though you're not supposed to do that.

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Your seduction is matched only by your treachery, communist!

Some people are wearing that costume ironically, but others are very, very sincere, which makes it especially weird, because it means their celebration is in violation of the rules of the thing they're supposed to be celebrating. The problem is that there's no non-controversial form of patriotism left -- it's all become politicized and douchey, so what we're even celebrating in the first place (Freedom? International supremacy? Michael Bay?) becomes a topic of debate. A big part of the holiday can easily become a) avoiding arguments or b) being uncomfortable with the celebrations that aren't exactly what you signed up for.

Then, even worse, you have people who can't help but voice all that shit. God, guys, it's bad enough living in my own head, I don't want to hear these thoughts coming out of other people's mouths too.

How to Fix It

Either grow up in an ideologically homogeneous family or... don't be a dick? That's really the only option I can think of. Shit. I really should've planned this article out before I started writing it, because this last one's gonna be kind of a doozy.

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1
The Politics

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We're a politically divided country. There's probably a source somewhere on the Internet that supports that idea. This means we're ready to argue, all the time, about pretty much everything -- but arguing is the exact opposite of what holidays are for. For all the reasons explained in the last entry, this makes the Fourth of July the worst holiday.

If we're honest with ourselves, we can admit that there are only four real holidays per year (Halloween, Christmas, New Year's, and the Fourth of July), and the Fourth of July is the most dangerous one. Halloween is fine because, as a holiday, it's not really "about" anything other than discovering what that slutty zombie's makeup tastes like. Christmas can start with some cutting remarks, but by the end you'll be exchanging gifts, and that reinforces emotional bonds. New Year's is always too loud for real arguments, and besides, you're still riding that high from Christmas. Don't even start me on Thanksgiving. It doesn't even have its own consistent day.

But Fourth of July? Everything about it is political! And on top of that, you're getting day-drunk, widely regarded among drunken scholars as the most dangerous and volatile way to get drunk. If you slam some beers at 11:30 p.m. and then get in a fight, you'll tire yourself out and wake up with some bruises and a cool story. Slam those beers at 11 a.m. and then get in a fight near an open barbecue and a bag full of probably-illegal-depending-on-your-state fireworks, and one of you is going to suffer a death normally reserved for an ethnically ambiguous villain at the 85-minute mark of a '90s action movie.

That's what everyone else is thinking during this holiday, right? No? Just what do you think you're implying about my mental health, sirs and madams?

How to Fix It

Revolution. Let's burn this fucking world down. For 'merica. For Freedom.

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But most of all, for never losing another hamburger to a paper plate.

I love you all. Happy Fourth.


JF Sargent is very much aware of the date, thank you. Follow him on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.

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