I confess. I do get all misty-eyed on Independence Day and thereabouts. I love watching Macy’s blow up several million dollars worth of stuff. I love backyard bar-b-ques and hot dogs and lemonade. Now, sometimes my friends on the Left suggest that we shouldn’t be celebrating the Fourth of July. After all, we stole the country from the Indians (commiting either intention or unintentional genocide in the process — depending on how you feel about providing the native peoples with blankets taken from infectious disease wards, etc.). We held slaves (well, some of us — my ancestors were all safely being tormented by Cossaks and the like in the “old country”) and then took forever to begin to treat African-Americans as full citizens. Ditto for women in this country. On and on — add Viet Nam and up to Iraq to the list of America’s transgressions if you like.Those on the Right have their own agenda, of course. They demand excessive flag-waving and an unswerving loyalty to the present (inept, corrupt, anti-American) Adminstration and everything every government has ever done.
Michael Moore was recently asked on the Larry King show (by a caller) as “why you hate America” (not in those words, but it was the thrust of his question). Moore, as usual, tried to reply that he, in fact, loves America; that we’re a country full of people who are mostly kind and generous, eager to help others, who band together regardless of differences in times of strife; who have a long traditional of fairness, morality, goodness, etc.
Our history is what our history is. There’s the good and the bad, and there’s not much to be gained by denying the bad. (Learning from the past is something we’re not always good at, though). But to me, celebrating the Fourth is more about whatever good — or bad — the country has done since 1776. To me, it’s more about the ideals on which the country was founded. Women and blacks weren’t treated as people (more as property, and in the case of blacks, not even a whole unit of property) in the Constitution, but the ideal of equality was there. America’s moral compass may have been somewhat on the fritz of late, but there are signs that things are going to come back into alignment. Hell, even global climate change is starting to look like a manageable thing, even if our national “leadership” is lagging way behind in leading the way.
So, here’s the Macy’s and the millions on fireworks. Here’s to brass bands and hot dogs and red-white-and-blue bunting. Here’s to the future. Happy Fourth, everyone.