July Fourth, Independence Day: Why We Celebrate

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There was a time when the Fourth of July truly meant independence, liberty, and freedom for those who live in these precious United States of America. Over time, the meaning seems to have slipped away from us.

Like many holidays, what children are taught more than anything are the trappings of the event, rather than the reason behind them. In the case of this summer holiday, what often matters most is who can have the best fireworks show and whose cookout has the best food.

Does anyone sit down anymore and take a moment to reflect on the history of the moment? Do we pause to remember what our forefathers fought so hard for in establishing America as its own free nation? Is there time to reflect on the many freedoms we have here that no one else on the face of this Earth has?

Frankly, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard discussion about the meaning of the day except in school. Otherwise, the day itself has always been full of parades, hot dogs, sack races, and, again, the obligatory fireworks.

Fireworks may be the catalyst for the forgotten reason why workers get a day off every July 4th. Americans love a good explosive and sparkly show. The problem is, the fireworks have overshadowed the day, and in the process, we’ve lost focus on why we’re lighting up the night sky in the first place.

Case in point. Here in California, we’re under siege with fires. The destruction has been tremendous. Our air quality has been in the ‘red’, as in ‘stay home’ and ‘use precautions’ when going outside. Outdoor events have been canceled and/or postponed. News broadcasters all cried out – “If we’re in such a state where any fire could be dangerous, why are we even allowing the sale of fireworks for the holiday?”

Sure enough, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California, spoke up, urging people *not* to buy fireworks this year. Suddenly, there was an outcry. How could we celebrate the Fourth of July without fireworks?

I have a few ideas. How about taking that thirty minutes when the fireworks would be set off to talk about how lucky we are to live in this country, to be able to whine and complain about things we don’t like, to go where we want, when we want, and to just live our lives without interference? Why not have a discussion about our forefathers and their fight to make America free?

Charities are complaining about the governor’s plea. Even though, Schwarzenegger said he wasn’t banning safe fireworks, they were afraid of his power, that people would listen to him and not buy fireworks this year. For charities, that’s a loss of income from a major source.

I understand the loss, but where are our values? People are losing their homes. They’re being hurt, as are the animals. Firefighters are weary, and our natural resources are being depleted. What’s more important? Raising funds, or saving homes and lives?

Has the Fourth of July really become nothing more than a day to set off fireworks? Is that what America means? Is that all we are now? Isn’t there more to who we are and what we are than a few minutes of snap, crackle, and pop in the sky on the Fourth? I suppose the answer lies within each of us; I only hope we don’t deny the truth and forever lose the greatness of our nation.


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