The 4th of July has always been my favorite holiday, between the fireworks and summer picnics and baseball games (one of which I am going to today – the Mets have become my favorite team for a day, since they are playing the cursed Yankees). But for all of the trappings, we musn’t forget the real reasons why today is a day for celebration.
We should celebrate because with the Declaration of Independence, we set in motion an experiment in a form of government that had never been tried before… and we’ve made it work for 228 years.
We should celebrate because our collective commitment to that form of government is so strong that even in a debacle like the 2000 election, with both sides believing the other was trying to steal the election, there wasn’t a tank or a gun in sight – just opposing parties battling it out in court.
We should celebrate because I have the freedom to call George W. Bush and Dick Cheney lying traitors, in writing and in public, without having the army show up at my door in the middle of the night. We should celebrate because Republicans have the freedom to call me a jerk for calling Bush and Cheney liars, without having gangs of thugs show up at their doors in the middle of the night. We should celebrate because there are a million different beliefs of what constitutes Americanism, and what the “right way” is. We should celebrate because every one of them is right, and every one of them is wrong.
We should celebrate because we have the right to turn the channel or change the station when we find programming we find objectionable – because despite recent evidence to the contrary, our government still respects our intelligence enough to allow us to make that choice. We should celebrate because, Fox “News”‘s efforts notwithstanding, we don’t have state-run news in this country, meaning that our citizens can learn for themselves what is happening in their country and in their world.
We should celebrate because millions of our fellow citizens wear the uniform of the United States military – not because they have to, but because they’ve chosen to… and they are willing to carry out their duties with honor and courage, no matter the cause, and no matter the danger or cost. We should celebrate because the ideals of our country are so strong that Arlington National Cemetary is full of brave men and women who gave the last full measure of devotion to those ideals – and did so willingly and with pride. We owe it to them to celebrate, because they died in order to ensure that we could.
We should celebrate because for all of our disagreements and differences, we still are bound by the invisible ties of the ideals we were founded on… so that when evil rears its head and strikes us without warning, we are drawn together, not torn apart; we cry, we grieve, and then we move on together even more determined than before that freedom is worth any sacrifice.
We should celebrate because across the country today, from the inner cities of the East coast, to the farm town main streets of the Midwest, to the beaches of California… our fellow Americans will get together, will enjoy a summer’s day and fireworks and barbecue and watermelon and corn on the cob… and will not have to think once about how remarkable this experiment has been… and we should celebrate because many will think about it anyway.
We should celebrate because in America, love of country does not mean the simple parroting of the ruling party’s platform or mantra… because dissent and opposition are proud traditions in America, and are in fact in some cases the greatest show of love of the ideals upon which the nation was based.
We should celebrate because this Sunday morning (or Saturday evening, or Friday), millions of Americans worshipped the God of their choice, in the manner they saw fit… and because both the government and I have to respect that. We should celebrate because this Sunday morning – like fifteen years of Sunday mornings before it – I chose not to attend church at all… and because both the government and the churchgoers have to respect that.
Because we have the ability to feed ourselves, because we’ve built an economic machine the likes of which the world has never seen, and because we give more to charity than any nation on earth.
Because of Mary-Kate and Ashley; where else in the world can 18 year-olds become billionaires?
Because little kids still learn the words to “America the Beautiful.” Because they still learn the words to “We Shall Overcome.”
We should celebrate because in this country, a kid from a working class family can get an advanced education and use his talents to get jobs and salaries that his ancestors only dreamed of – and that will seem miniscule to his descendants. And because his story is not at all unique – in fact, it’s been repeated for generations by other Americans, and will be repeated again for generations to come.
There are now other democratic nations in the world where this is possible, but America was first. Without the experiment than began 228 years ago today, all of our opportunities and freedoms would not exist – in America or anywhere in the world. That alone is worth a decade’s worth of fireworks.
Happy Birthday, America. And many more.