Happy Birthday, America And Americans
There’s a question asked often as a Brain Teaser/Joke, which asks “Is there a Fourth of July in Canada (or Great Britain, or Mexico)? The answer is obviously yes, there is a fourth of July for every country which follows the Gregorian calendar. It just doesn’t have the same significance that it has to those of us who live in these United States of America.
This coming Wednesday, we’ll be celebrating the Fourth of July in our country, in a variety of ways, participating in any number of various activities, and hopefully remembering what the day is known for and why we celebrate it the way we do.
Some will go see a parade, some will take part in Backyard or Park Barbecues. Some will spend the day at the beach, or maybe at a ballpark. Some may attend a patriotic concert, some will take in Fireworks Displays. Many will be wearing Red, White, and Blue, or articles of clothing displaying the American Flag.
Some may watch a television movie, maybe 1776, or An American President, or Patton, or any movie with a patriotic theme. Some may choose to visit a cemetery, or a historical park or museum. Whatever we choose to do, or whatever we choose to wear in the name of the day, the Fourth of July in this country should bring to mind significances that gave this country its start and brought special meaning to this date.
In this country we tend to celebrate certain days — it’s a day we don’t have to go to work or school, or when some group sponsors a parade, or a fireworks show, or a picnic/barbecue, or a concert — but we might lose sight of the significance of the day itself and why we celebrate it. That has been seen by many, when we celebrate holidays like Veterans’ Day, Labor Day and even Christmas Day. The meaning of those days is often overlooked, or at least pushed aside by the festivity of events, by food and/or drink, and by the granting of a day off from work or school.
So why do we celebrate the Fourth of July? Or, to put it another way, what are we remembering and memorializing on the Fourth of July? Remember that another name for this day is Independence Day. That means we are celebrating our country’s independence from England’s rule and our becoming a separate nation with our own government. Yes, that is a major aspect of what we celebrate, but we also celebrate this country which has grown and developed into a nation which has brought together people with different looks, different feelings, different opinions, different tastes, different needs, different wants, different lifestyles and different ideas.
The Southern Colonies had their interests which they needed from Independence, much different than those of the Northern Colonies. Each colony had representatives with different ideas about religion, and different ideas on what could be considered treasonous, or what rights needed to be included in the Declaration of Independence, and the only way independence could be achieved unanimously, as was one of the first stipulations debated and agreed upon, was to give and take, come to a consensus, compromise, put aside differences and work together, as a nation should do (ahem, ahem, legislators and executives of today), finding aspects that would affect, and benefit all the people of the new nation being created.
This country was founded under those premises of Give and Take, and of Respect for everyone’s ideas whether they agree with our own, or are on the other side of the aisle. It was founded under the principles of Equality, Non-Discrimination, Fairness, and Justice for All. It seems that many in this country have somewhat lost sight of those ideals and precepts, evidenced by most of the bickering, and the “schoolyard” spat–like behavior we see and hear often in the news today.
This country was also created under the premises of life, liberty and the opportunities to pursue happiness in our lifetime. It was built under the blanket of Color Blindness, Creed Blindness, Race Blindness, and Religion Blindness. It was established with all people in mind and offered the same rights to each and every person protected by the Constitution of these United States of America.
Ours is a country of symbols, most notably, a flag, monuments, and memorials. It is a country fueled by songs of inspiration, including the National Anthem, America the Beautiful, My Country ‘Tis of Thee (America), and Yankee Doodle, to name a few. Many people genuinely feel the passion when displaying and wearing our country’s colors, and singing our country’s songs. There are many, though, who present the illusion of being model Americans wearing the colors of this country, chanting “USA, USA” at sporting events, and standing solemnly during those songs, many even singing and chanting along with them, but then do not put into practice the meanings of the words, the passion of what those words stand for, and/or the patriotism they were meant to instill. One of the greatest quotes from the movie, An American President, starring Michael Douglas and Annette Benning is, “How do you have patience for people who claim they love America … but clearly can’t stand Americans?” Americans need not just talk the talk, but must also walk the walk. We can’t just respect the symbols and songs without respecting the people sharing that Blanket of Freedom with all of us.
Ours is a nation marked and celebrated by the colors … Red, White and Blue. My lessons in school taught me that the meanings of the colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) that are those used in the flag of the United States of America are: White signifies purity, innocence, and hope. Red, symbolizes hardiness, valor, and the color of the blood shed for Independence and fought for to keep and protect that independence, and the color blue, backdropping the Field of Stars, symbolizes the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) and signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice.”
Ours is a sentimental nation, steeped in history and tradition, characterized by pomp and circumstance, but all of that means nothing if the actions of Americans toward each other, do not speak louder that all of the flag waving, the song singing, the parades, and the celebrations of a few days in the year.
So as we get ready for those Fourth of July parades, ballgames, picnics, and fireworks celebrations this coming Wednesday, let us make sure we don’t just do things that look good on the surface. Let’s make sure all the parades, the ballgames, the songs, and the colors, don’t just look good, or sound good, or give others false impressions of us, but that they reach all of us in the depths of our hearts and souls, and bring out the true meanings of our celebrations, in the ways our forefathers intended when the true importance of the Fourth of July was initiated.