In the U.S., we celebrate the 4th of July–Independence Day–in a variety of ways, usually with parades and fireworks. I think both things are stupid, especially fireworks. Don’t even get me started on the particularly authoritarian plans for a military display in a 4th of July parade in Washington, D.C. this year according to the wishes of the current U.S. president. Ugh.
Of course, when I was younger, I thought parades and fireworks were wonderful, and I let off my fair share of fireworks along with all of my many older siblings. We thought it was great fun. Looking back, it’s a miracle that none of us did any significant bodily damage to ourselves or anyone else, or that we didn’t burn down our house or someone else’s. What were my parents thinking? I remember one time when a firecracker with a short fuse exploded very close to my hand just a split second after I threw it and aside from making my hand pretty sore, I could not hear anything but loud ringing in my ears for a considerable time.
Now that I am way past the 50 year old mark, I’ve reconsidered the whole fireworks thing, mainly because of pets and vets (as in, veterans). Our dogs are traumatized every time somebody lets off fireworks in our neighborhood, and I know there are many military veterans who struggle with the whole thing as well. And parades? Well, anything that requires me to sit or stand around in 90°+ F temps, baking in the hot sun with crowds of other people, is definitely stupid. Is it really worthwhile? Is it money and time well spent? I sincerely doubt it.
I also admit to feeling increasingly ambivalent about the rampant, ra-ra nationalist cheerleading that I see everywhere nowadays. Flags plastered all over every imaginable thing and the attitude of God, guns, and glory almost make me sick to my stomach. No, that does not make me anti-U.S. or mean that I don’t love my country enough or appreciate sacrifices from military personnel and first responders any less.
What it makes me, hopefully, is a person who sees more nuance and complexity than he used to, and one who acknowledges the good AND bad in this country’s past as well as its present.