Monday, January 23, 2012

Because we can: July 4, 2010

Normally, I'm a big believer in considering multiple viewpoints and trying to remain reasonable and moderate and as deliberately thoughtful as circumstances allow. The only thing I fanatically oppose is fanaticism.

Every now and then, though, I think it's OK to indulge in a bit of mindless, swaggering celebration. So every year on the Fourth of July, we join in festooning the 'hood in streamers, drink beer, blow stuff up and agree that America kicks ass.

It's hard to resist our annual red-white-and-blue spectacle

    I wait all year for this weekend. The Fourth of July is my favorite holiday, and by the time you read this, my neighborhood will have done it up right.

Hecho en Guatemala
    We'll have a boisterous little two-block parade of families down to the neighborhood swimming pool featuring bikes, scooters and wagons all decked out in red, white and blue. People will decorate their dogs, their cars and themselves in all things patriotic. My kids will help me festoon the mailbox with sparkly stars and wear their American flag T-shirts (made in Guatemala because Americans love irony.)

    Then we'll spend the day swimming, sunning, eating barbecue and watching the kids hurtle down inflatable water slides. And when it gets dark, the fireworks will bloom noisily from driveways in every direction. In my little corner of suburbia, if you want to see a dozen different fireworks shows, all you have to do is take a leisurely walk.

    Honestly, what's not to love? The big tasks for the day are to eat hot dogs and hamburgers, swim, watch fireworks, write your name in the air with sparklers and think America is terrific.

    There are no presents to buy, and there are no complex familial obligations or religious subtexts to turn it all into a debt trap or a guilt-fest. There is virtually no cooking and even less cleaning (who needs a bath? You just spent the day in the pool!)

Ben loves the excuse to skip his bath.
    Best of all, this is a holiday with my all-time favorite redeeming quality: It's educational. My sons may think they're just playing all day on a water slide in their star-spangled swim trunks and sneaking their third red-white-and-blue-iced cupcake off the dessert table (I saw that!), but what they're really doing is celebrating our history. They are participating in the collective, joyful observation of the birth of a great nation.

    And, OK, yes, their mom does fret 364 days a year about the kind of world we'll leave our children and their children. I try to show my sons that honest dissension is the soul of patriotism, that mindless jingoism is self-destructive, that independent thought is the path to a stronger community for everyone. I struggle to give them informed, even-handed answers to their endless questions about war, prejudice, poverty and why we
would go looking for oil a mile under the ocean.

    Maybe that's part of what makes the Fourth of July that much more fun for me: It's permission to celebrate all that is wonderful about our country, regardless of how deeply imperfect it may be. It's a day when, however far apart any of us may be culturally, socially or politically, we can all pretty much agree that birthday parties are a blast.

    So please pass me a sparkler, and excuse me while I go grab another barbecue sandwich.

Gary does not like fireworks.
He secretly hates America.  

No comments:

Post a Comment