Independence Day and I have never really gotten along. As a little kid, fireworks scared me silly, and going out to see them meant being eaten alive by mosquitos and the occasional sand flea.
Cut to today. I’m a highly risk-adverse, teetotaling vegetarian that studies this great country of ours for a living and doesn’t particularly like crowds. The more things change the more they stay the same.
So yeah, this isn’t my day. The Fourth of July leaves me wanting, both gastronomically and intellectually.
Every year I tell myself that I’m going to play along. I resolve to put on a red dress and “The 1812 Overture,” and pretend that I enjoy watching large groups of people handle explosive pyrotechnics under the influence of cheap beer.
Not this year. This year, I’m spending my day doing things I wish everybody did on the Fourth of July, things that would make this country better. I’m going to try and help people achieve REAL independence.
To be fair, I slept in today. And I’m sure I’m going to eat too much. Still.
My mother’s in the publishing business, and as a result we have literally hundreds of books in our house, mostly romance novels. Some of them were given away at conferences, some of them are duplicates, some of them have been read once and will never be read again… you get the idea. We have a lot of books.
When I’m done writing this post, I’m going to collect a whole boatload of said books, pack them up, and (on July 5th) ship them off to The Women’s Prison Book Project. Media mail is pretty cheap, and, as a professor-in-progress, I know how much a book, any book, can mean when put in the right hands at the right time.
Whether the various and sundry romance novels I donate end up helping a woman learn to read, or end up hidden under mattresses, I don’t care. I can’t single-handedly dismantle the prison-industrial complex, but I can make the lives of the women trapped within it slightly more enjoyable. This good deed will cost me maybe two hours, and maybe $10.
Now, I’m only partially motivated by altruism; fact is, my tiny act of kindness will benefit me too. It will mean that MY Independence Day is about charity, not gluttony. If I can reframe this—the tackiest and most self-indulgent of all holidays—then I can totally own every other day on the calendar.
“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.