The Glorious 4th
When I was a kid, The Fourth in Worcester meant the annual block party, sodas kept cold on dry ice, cherry bombs and snakes, and a trip to Auburn High School to watch about 15 minutes worth of fireworks. During the every-other-year trek to Chicago to visit my mother's family (spent mostly at my grandmother's house on a lake about 50 miles outside the city), The Fourth meant sparklers, spitting out watermelon seeds, and a jaunt into Libertyville to watch about 15 minutes worth of fireworks. (I think that one year, by the time we got there, the fireworks were over.)
Now I don't tend to do very much to celebrate The Fourth.
Before the Boston Pops concert at the Hatch Shell became a big-time media event drawing half- a-million people, I used to go to that. (And where one time I witnessed a truly amazing tribute to freedom. A mother on the next blanket was enouraging her little girl - who must have been about 2 1/2 or 3 - to clap along with "The Stars and Stripes Forever". When the kid refused to clap, the mother grabbed her arm and hissed, "You clap, or I'll clap your ass." Now that's what I call getting into the true spirit of the Fourth of July!)
Sometimes I go to my sister's house for a cookout. Sometimes I stay home and watch the fireworks out the window, then stand and watch to make sure that no one leaving the Pops Concert on the Hatch Shell stops to relieve himself against our back gate.
Even if I don't do all that much, I like The Fourth anyway - if only because it seems to be the one and only day in the year when it's off-limits to state that anyone who voices opposition to something or the other that the U.S. is doing is at best non-patriotic and at worst a traitor. It's the one day that the flag seems to belong to everyone.
One thing I always do on The Fourth is read The Declaration of Independence, which The Boston Globe conveniently publishes on its editorial page.
Yes, the lanugage may seem a bit stilted to the 21st century ear, but there's no denying that these fellow could write. And they could think. Couple this with the Constituion, and you've just got to say, lucky us to have men of the Enlightenment lay such a tremendous foundation on which to build a country.
And lucky us to have left the internecine struggles of the Old World so many thousands of miles behind. Sure, we've come up with some of our own, and we didn't exactly crown our good with brotherhood with respect to the native Americans and the slave trade, but Civil War aside, it has been pretty darn civil over here. By and large, the melting pot did its job: it melted the lumps out.
Lucky us to have such vast and beautiful physical space, so far away from "the other guys", which protected us for so long. And lucky us to have such an abundance of natural resources, such an embarassment of riches.
And lucky us to have the freedom to build and create, to piss and moan, and - yes - to not clap along with "The Stars and Stripes Forever" if we don't damn want to!
Can democracy last in an age of information overload - what's false? what's true? Can democracy prevail if the chasm keeps widening between haves and have nots? Will this - or any other nation state - survive forever in a globalized, corporatized world? Will we make more enemies and fewer friends?
Oh, just reading The Delaration of Independence. That King George III! We the people submitted the list of "repeated injuries and usuprations...to a candid world."
Stilted language and all, the list is worth reading. even the items that kind of make you want to smile:
Then there's this one that has quite a bit of current resonance (although I certainly can't fault our own current George here; too bad W wasn't able to "fatigue" the Republican senators "into compliance with his Immigration Law):
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
How dazzling. How brilliant. How gutsy the whole thing was.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither.
Thank you, Massachusetts' own John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry, and Boston boy Ben Franklin (who signed from Pennsylvania).
Thank you, Thomas Jefferson, for The Declaration and for the invention of the clothing closet. (At least I think I remember this from a long ago trip to Monticello.)
Thank you, Charles Carroll of Carrolton who, we were taught in grammar school, was the most important signatory of The Declaration of Indepence. He was, after all, the only Catholilc.
Thank you Button Gwinnett, for the singular charm of your first name.
The Glorious Fourth!
Happy 4th of July to everyone.