I remember as a kid chasing candy on Ridgeland Avenue during the parade, playing with glow sticks at Scoville Park before the fireworks show, and seeing American flags waving from many Oak Park homes.

However, this year’s 4th of July was the most underwhelming Independence Day I have experienced in Oak Park. The parade was noticeably short, lacking key participants like groups from the high school and popular businesses. And while the fireworks were rightfully canceled after the Highland Park shooting, there seemed to be no urgency to “un-cancel” them after the shooter’s arrest.

Kids scoop up candy thrown during the Oak Park Fourth of July Parade in Oak Park. (Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer)

It has become common practice in Oak Park to “hate on” the U.S. I saw more kids my age — recent graduates of high school — posting on Instagram reasons to not celebrate Independence Day than to celebrate it. Yes, I’m in the minority of my peers celebrating the 4th.

I think it is important to differentiate between critiquing and despising America. Critiquing America is one of the most patriotic things you can do. Every good change in our country’s history came from those who refused complacency.

So when I hear my classmates say they hate America, I don’t understand. With its non-complacency spirit in mind, America is the country you want to be in to fight major issues you care about.

This growing trend to hate America has been led by progressives. And while I understand their intentions are good, many young people have turned away, including myself, from their anti-American rhetoric.

I advise them to pair their critiques with patriotic optimism. Think of Barack Obama — running on a relatively progressive agenda for the time — announcing, “Yes we can!” Or Muhammed Ali, who showed that one of the most outspoken critics of America could proudly represent the same country during the Olympics.

Until the progressive movement picks up patriotic optimism, policy that our town needs will not be enacted.

I celebrated the 4th of July this year. I enjoyed honoring a country that has bred the many activists who have strengthened the nation.

But next year, I hope more of my neighbors will celebrate with me.

Calvin Roe
Oak Park

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