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Independence Day

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Today's the Fourth of July.
Another June has gone by.
And when they light up our town I just think
What a waste of gunpowder and sky.

— Aimee Mann, "4th of July"

The small city where I live hosts a fireworks display each July Fourth. It's the best fireworks show for probably 50 miles around, so it draws a throng of locals and not-so-locals. Many of them pack the small stadium where the skyrockets are launched; others bring lawn chairs, picnic meals, coolers and boom boxes and set up at the park across the street from the stadium or at the many vantage points along the river dikes that hug the stadium. Other people watch from farther away.

I live about eight minutes from the stadium and had to run into town yesterday for some errands. It was early afternoon, a little after one, and as I drove past the stadium I was surprised by just how full the park was, just how many people had already spread blankets on the grassy crowns of the dikes, just how many people were settled in at prime viewing spots on that side of the city. The show wasn't going to begin until dusk, yet here these people were, getting festive at least eight hours before the Roman candles and bombs.

Maybe the early crowd was merely the result of the fact that Saturday was the first day it hadn't rained this week, and people wanted to get outside. Maybe. I have a different idea. I think it's because all of us—the people I saw yesterday afternoon, the people I know, the people those people know, and you and I—needed a little bombast yesterday. Sure, some people may be a little foggy about the history of the holiday, but nonetheless, it represents rebellion, the resultant liberty and the grand possibilities such liberty offers. In a nation where the gap between the haves and have-nots is somewhere between criminal and obscene, it's easy to forget those possibilities. We all live uneasily, anxiously, uncertain of how much we really control our own destinies; that's especially true for people who don't have the same access to those possibilities that you and I have.

And so we came together at dark last night and craned our necks toward the gunpowder and sky to be reminded about the desperate circumstances surrounding our nation's birth. Surely those early Americans lived lives at least as worrisome as ours. And maybe this reminder helped us feel that we can achieve independence, or at least a degree of it, from want and worry. Under a shower of sparkle and sound, at least, anything seems possible.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 6th, 2009 03:26 am (UTC)
Jul. 6th, 2009 04:16 am (UTC)
Thanks—but I know you're only referring to the picture of Aimee.
Jul. 6th, 2009 06:49 am (UTC)

Excellent post.

I would add one thing that the division between the haves and have nots is big, but the haves have just as many problems as the have nots......different set of problems, but just as severe and very scary. The haves are in full retreat these days and that bodes poorly for all and will resonate through the entire economy.

Happy 4th. I know I'm the happiest I've been in years.

Jul. 6th, 2009 12:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading and commenting, Jeff. Your new happiness has been reflected in your blog posts; here's hoping it continues growing.
Jul. 8th, 2009 12:28 pm (UTC)
Under a shower of sparkle and sound, at least, anything seems possible. Great line.

As much as I like to think I'm not a worrier, your post really nailed the too-often-of-late feelings of financial anxiety. We're certainly not "have-nots," but were more certainly not "haves." We're "hanging-on-ers" maybe.

On top of that, we've got surly youth pining for independence from their perceived tyranny...
Jul. 8th, 2009 05:29 pm (UTC)
I've often wondered how you and Dick have done it: not only being good parents, but also being able to provide the S.Y.'s with such a comfortable upbringing. I can't begin to imagine the demands it has placed on both of you.
Jul. 9th, 2009 12:41 am (UTC)
Yeah, well - sometimes I feel we've done ok - good, even. Other times - not so much. This is the thing I think I weigh on the scale in my mind more than anything else.

My neck craning seems to be more an attempt to peek into the future. So far, all it's gotten me is a good chiropractor.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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