Celebrate the Fourth
Today we celebrate our Independence from Britain. Historically, the date could be several dates, but the American people settled on July 4, 1776 as the date they wanted to remember. I don’t believe that it really matters if the declaration was passed on July 2 or approved on August 2. What matters is that the document created a country where people had choices and were able to work as hard as they wanted.
Over the years, as in every country, many things happened. Laws were formed, wars were fought, babies were born and a new society was formed. Mistakes were made, new opportunities arose, some cheated others, and some loved others. We continue to be a nation of humans who strive to live together and understand each other.
Much like the original colonists, we are constantly bombarded with changes in ideology. Societal norms change and undulate over the years. The “good ‘ol days” are merely reflections of an idealized lifestyle that seem perfect in recollection. Change forces us to question our past. Where do we go from here? What does it mean to be free? What does it mean to be an American?
I don’t have exact answers, but as a parent I look for ways to help my children/grandchildren be proud of the country of their birth. For years I have gone to Old Navy and bought flag shirts for the entire family to wear on the fourth of July. I bought little flags to wave around and we took the night to celebrate in our front field. We invited all who wanted to come. I have hundreds of pictures of my kids in their flag shirts first holding a sparkler and then poppers and finally out in the field shooting off rockets. Nothing much was said on the night of the celebration about being American but each one knew why we celebrated.
July 5th was our day to discuss America and what it meant to be an American. We slept in late and then went outside to pick up. As we swept and picked up trash we talked about living in America. We talked about being free and the different ideas behind the word “free.” We always found a few unlit black cats or scattered poppers in the grass. We worked steadily and then stopped and drank the last of the sodas floating in the coolers.
I would tell them stories about their papa being in World War II and my brother in the Vietnam War. We would discuss granddad being in the Korean conflict and how war was horrible but there were times it was necessary. One year we gathered around a huge poster and streamed the photo to Iraq where our oldest son was serving. This year we will note the absence of our newest Marine (who didn’t get leave) and wish that he could be with us.
As we got the yard cleaned and the sidewalks swept our talk turned to how much fun we had, how many people came and always, always, could we do this again next year.
I know not everyone is positive about living in America. I know not everyone appreciates the sacrifices that our military make so that we can live here, but I also know that many do. Many families still have parties and pop fireworks and scream and holler when the booms sound across the sky. Many will stand with faces upturned watching the last trail of light touch the horizon as the sound fizzles through the night and the next one explodes in multi-color.
My family will be out there. Watching, screaming, and remembering. We will be there thanking God that we have a country in which we can still gather in groups to celebrate. We will have on our Fourth of July flag shirts and I will insure that my children and grandchildren understand exactly why we are celebrating. America is not perfect, but if we fail to teach younger generations to appreciate what they have, then where will we be? I want my children and grandchildren to be proud of the flag that their granddads, uncles, and brothers defended. I want them to think about the blessings they have been given and not take them for granted. I want them to be proud to be an American. And so, we celebrate and continue the story.
As the last spark descends I will say a quick prayer that God continues to bless America and all Americans.
Happy Fourth of July!