Happy 4th of July! Happy Independence Day! Why?
Somewhere around the beginning of June, I took a deep breath or blinked and now it's the 4th of July. How the heck did that happen??? Before summer gets here, it seems so long and glorious. Three full months of ice cream, swimming pools, blockbuster movies, and sleeping late. But then the kids don't get out of school until after the first full week of June, and then it takes another week to recover from that. Then you realize they'll have to go back to school midway through August, and there's all the prep for that. So we're down to about two months. And as adults, there's that silly old concept of having to work and pay bills, so then that sleeping late and swimming pools part of the daydream pretty much stays just that-- a daydream. But not on the 4th of July. It's a holiday. A day off. (for most). It's an entire day that is specifically devoted to sunshine and swimming and watermelon and fireworks and summer. Oh, and being patriotic and celebrating independence. Almost forgot about that, didn't we? Somewhere in the midst of boating and skiing and picnics and ice cream, we lose a lot of the reason for the celebration. We might attend a parade, or we may watch our fireworks displays in red, white, and blue, but what does it all mean? I remember (vaguely, mind you) the bicentennial celebrations of 1976. As a kid, I had no idea what it truly meant for our country to celebrate 200 years. I just remember glimpses of parades and flags and a feeling of pride. I grew up in a patriotic culture, where you stood and put your hand over your heart when they played the national anthem (hats and caps removed). I learned songs like "America the Beautiful", "Grand Ole Flag", and "My Country Tis of Thee." I remember as a child getting goosebumps if I was at an event and people chanted U - S - A and proudly waved the flag. I remember watching the Olympics and being all excited if "my team" won a medal. It seems like there is less pride in our country today. So much fighting. So much arguing. Over politics. Over government. Over religion. Over rights. I suppose every generation feels like the way they grew up was in some way better than present times, and I guess we all look back on the past through rose-colored glasses. After all, these are not the first times in history that Americans didn't trust their government, that citizens didn't like the president, or that people fought over who should be considered equal and how. It's not the first time that soldiers have gone away and sacrificed their lives in wars that people don't agree with, and it's not the first time that people suspected politicians of putting self-interest and greed ahead of the common good. But I'm not typing this to get into any political discussions or civil rights debates, or even to bring attention to any social justice issue. I just want to take a moment and actually recognize that on this day in history, my country was born. It is because of that I am an American. A citizen of the United States. And although I love traveling to other countries and cherish my friendships with wonderful people of other nationalities, I am happy to be an American. I am blessed to live in a country where I can practice my own religious beliefs. I may have friends and relatives who do not agree with my beliefs, but I am free to practice them, and they are free to disagree and practice their own. I am blessed to live in a country where I have a vote and an opportunity to lend my voice to what happens. I may agree with what the majority votes, or I may not like what they decide, but I have the opportunity to speak. And I am allowed to speak out and against if I so choose, without fear of someone coming after me in the night. I am blessed to live in a country that allows females to learn and to work and to walk freely down sidewalks. I am blessed to be able to choose my own career, my own husband, and my own path in life. I am blessed to live in a country that is diverse in its regions. Physical landscapes, dialects, customs, traditions, accents, cooking styles, music....what an incredible melting pot of people living in one united society. I am blessed to live in a country filled with people who are willing to help each other. Who will brave fires and tornadoes and floods and hurricanes to help their fellow man. Who will work tirelessly to feed the homeless, shelter the animals, teach the illiterate, and give hope to the lost. Ours is certainly not the only country that has beautiful qualities. We are not the only people that have great things to offer. Nor are we the only people with national pride. In the grand scheme of history and countries with centuries behind them, we are but a baby. And yes, we sometimes stumble and lose our way. But this is my country. Land of my birth. It ain't perfect, but it's home. And I am proud to be an American. So for today, let's put aside our differences, and remember that we are all on the same big team. Let's celebrate Independence Day by rejoicing in the blessings we share, including our ability to disagree, the freedom to be ourselves, and the absolute fun of a summer day filled with picnics, barbeques, swimming pools, and fireworks. Happy 4th of July, my fellow Americans! Enjoy your summer holiday!