What I’m Celebrating Instead of America’s Birthday This Fourth of July

Introducing Goldberg Wonderland Day, the holiday for those who want more than just one-dimensional nationalism.

[new_image position="standard" id="null"]Illustration by Jean Wei[/new_image]

On the Fourth of July, most Americans (and Danes for some reason) will break out Old Glory, stock up on hot dogs and other mystery meat products, and head out to fireworks-watching picnics (or in my Brooklyn neighborhood, rooftop parties) to celebrate. But while the bulk of the country is out listening to patriotic music and reveling in wholesome nationalism, I’ll be sitting about 2,000 miles away, at a decidedly un-American bar in Reykjavik, Iceland, with nary a USA!USA!USA!-chanting expatriate within earshot. And that’s exactly the way I like it, because I am incredibly dubious of this nationalistic holiday.

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Civic Pride Makes People Happier Than Ethnic Pride

It turns out that the more inclusive your politics, the happier you'll be.


Patriotism looks different depending on how you spin it. It can create a fascist, racist monster, or it can be a symbol of justice and independence. The difference, according to a new global study published in Psychological Science, is the source of the pride in question. The study found that people who love their country for its laws and institutions, rather than its lineage, are happier.

The researchers surveyed 40,677 people from 31 countries to draw a distinction between ethnic pride, which stems from racial and religious affiliation, and civic pride—how the government functions. They found that the proudest ethnic nationalists' happiness barely surpassed that of people with the lowest level of civic pride, and that civic patriots' well-being was higher overall. One possible reason? Ethnic nationalists are less content to begin with, and therefore more likely to participate in racist and xenophobic behavior. Or, says one of the scholars, Matthew Wright, "more likely to lead the charge as their nation diversifies around them."

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The Patriots

How do you erect an entire museum to an idea as divisive and abstract as patriotism? A trip to Atlanta's newest tourist attraction invites the...

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