John S. Blake

I Just Can’t Anymore

John S. Blake reflects on this Fourth of July and reviews the current state of affairs and questions our definition of what it means to be independent and American.


It is the Fourth of July 2018. The time is 9:24 p.m. and the sun has nearly nodded. I am in my backyard, enduring the music of my neighbor’s party. The songs celebrate many things American: objectification of women, hoarding money, taking lives, and consuming chemicals. We are surrounded by explosions. Some mimic the song of a .22 caliber pistol while others stutter like AK-47s. Still, there are more that spit light through the sky and thunder, taking me back to the time we were enabled to witness the bombing of Iraq.

I consider Juarez. I consider Ecuador. I attempt to fathom a father, south of Texas, sheltering his children from gunfire and grenades. I imagine the choice: stay here to navigate death or navigate death for something better. I squint to consider how a mother knowingly faces the possibility of being separated from her children just so her children can have better lives somewhere with less bullets. I can’t. I couldn’t possibly imagine fear that natural. I am a spoiled American. I am privileged. I have the luxury of lacking capabilities to experience a moral dilemma that horrifying.

The explosions continue. I consider Palestine and can’t wrap my mind around protesting against drones or that a corporation like Google could simply erase the word “Palestine” from their navigation system. Never have I ever been told to leave my land. Never has a bulldozer ever pushed my home into dust.

Every glint of light against the dark reminds me of a black man being shot in a Walmart for holding the toy gun he just picked up from a shelf. Each spec of white against the indigo backdrop reminds of Trayvon, of Tamir, of Aiyana. Some names I remember better than the faces. Some faces flash across the night, ending in a red star, trailing in yellow. Then sparkles rain and the sound of one hundred rattlesnakes cloud the sounds.

Then the music chokes the silence between booms and bangs.

This is America. This is how we celebrate a day without work, with family. A day without school, with gunpowder.


This is America. This is how we celebrate a day without work, with family. A day without school, with gunpowder.


I can’t consider the word “independence.” I flash to the countenance of Frederick Douglass. I am angry, reflecting on every lie this president has told. I begin replaying the metallic scratch of Betsy DeVos’s whine in interviews, doubling down on her surgical approach to public education.

Then I begin to think about soldiers, home from war, struggling with PTSD, and flinching at every twitch of fire and light, each smack spark and atom splitting. I wonder if they too are crying at this moment.

This, I cannot celebrate. This gratitude for too much comfort. This acknowledgment of apathy. This nationalism. Tonight, children await trials without attorneys while their parents regret nothing and would do it all over again.

This I cannot celebrate. This illusion of freedom, while Kaepernick is still blackballed for kneeling during the national anthem.

I cannot bring myself to be anything but a true patriot; someone who loves his home enough to fight for a better country. A country that will hold itself accountable for its inhumanity.

The time is now 9:52 pm. The air is splashed in the cologne of Vietnam. My dog cowers next to the washing machine. I try to assure her everything is okay. She will not go outside. She will not move. She weeps in a high pitch. She cannot look at me, and I have avoided the mirror all day long.


John S. Blake

John S. Blake is a cisgender, African American writer, poet, activist, and youth advocate originally from New York City. He’s currently studying African American Studies and English, with concentrations in Gender/Sexuality, Sociology, and Creative Writing, aiming for his Masters in Education at Virginia Commonwealth University. He facilitates creative writing and intersectionality workshops nationwide.

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