American Decline

Herman refuses to celebrate the Fourth of July

By Aleksey Bashtavenko

Academic Composition


Herman’s life was filled with contradictions and inner turmoil. Growing up in a suburban town, he was raised in a family that celebrated traditional American values. But as he became more aware of the world around him, he started to question those very values.

One hot summer day, as the Fourth of July approached, Herman’s friends excitedly called him to make plans for the holiday. They wanted to celebrate with a backyard barbecue, fireworks, and joyous festivities. But as the phone rang, Herman felt a wave of cognitive dissonance wash over him.

He couldn’t help but see the Fourth of July as a celebration of a nation that he believed was fundamentally sexist, racist, and oppressive. The historical context, the injustices faced by marginalized communities throughout America’s history, and the ongoing struggles for equality weighed heavily on his mind.

Reluctantly, Herman agreed to join his parents for a family picnic that day. As they gathered in a local park, the air filled with the sounds of laughter, sizzling grills, and the anticipation of the evening fireworks. But instead of feeling a sense of unity and pride, Herman felt a surge of anger and frustration.

To him, the celebrations felt hollow and hypocritical. The grand display of patriotism seemed to overshadow the deep-rooted inequalities and injustices that plagued the country. The sight of families indulging in festive activities only reinforced his belief that America was oblivious to its own flaws.

Herman’s discontent grew as the evening wore on. The fireworks, usually a spectacle of wonder and awe, became a painful reminder of the darkness he perceived within his own country. Each explosion in the sky seemed to mock his belief in a fair and just society.

In that moment, Herman made a decision. He felt that his very existence, as a white cisgender male, was an affront to his exotically colored and gender-fluid neighbors. He believed that his privilege alone perpetuated the systemic inequalities he despised. Unable to reconcile these conflicting emotions, he saw taking a vow of silence as his only path forward.

From that day on, Herman retreated from the world of spoken words. He immersed himself in a self-imposed silence, refusing to engage in conversations or express his thoughts and opinions. In his mind, this silence became a form of protest, a rejection of a society he saw as deeply flawed.

Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months. Herman’s vow of silence became a constant companion, guiding his every action and shaping his worldview. It served as a shield against the frustrations and disappointments that he felt in the world around him.

But as time went on, Herman began to realize that his vow of silence was both a blessing and a curse. While it offered him solace and a sense of control over his own narrative, it also isolated him from the possibility of fostering understanding and driving positive change.

Gradually, a new realization started to dawn on him. The path to creating a more equitable society wasn’t through silence, but through dialogue, empathy, and active engagement. He understood that his voice, despite his feelings of guilt and shame, had the power to advocate for justice and equality.

With renewed purpose, Herman chose to break his silence. He emerged from his self-imposed isolation, ready to confront the contradictions within himself and society. He sought out conversations and connections, determined to bridge the gaps that had once seemed insurmountable.

In time, Herman became a voice for change. He used his own experiences of cognitive dissonance and personal struggles to foster understanding and compassion. He recognized that while America had its flaws, it was also a place of immense potential and the power to evolve.

As he continued his journey, Herman learned that his existence wasn’t an affront to others but an opportunity to uplift and support those who were marginalized. He embraced the complexity of his identity and used it to challenge the very systems he once felt were irredeemable.

And so, Herman’s story became one of transformation, of finding strength in the midst of cognitive dissonance, and of using his voice to advocate for a more inclusive and equitable society.

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