So once again that grandest and greatest of American Holidays is upon us, The Fourth of July beckons, complete with a three day weekend thanks to a fortuitous calendar this year. I am traveling out of town this Fourth but already the locals are planning the boat trips and dock bar excursions over the course of what looks to be a glorious sun soaked Independence weekend here in the Mid Atlantic. When I ran errands this morning I could see that the good folks at Red Eyes were up and about stocking the bar with all the necessities for a great time in the sunshine, and boat traffic was heading out the narrows already. With my usual exquisite sense of timing I am off to South Texas to enjoy the holiday with relatives. I understand there has been a cool wave down there and we are going to actually enjoy sub triple digit temperatures for a day to two while we are there.
It is one of the grandest of American traditions. In a letter to his wife shortly after the Declaration of Independence was signed John Adams said “It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.” In this we have not failed Mr. Adams.
There will be parades all over America and veterans will struggle to see if that somewhat expanded waistline can still fit into the old uniform. Squads of Vietnam veterans in small towns and cities will march proudly as, finally, the old divisions have healed and they finally receive the long overdue welcome and thank you for their friends and neighbors. Small town bands will pay out of tune and march out of step as parents proudly snap fuzzy photos. Politicians and beauty queens will float down Main Street in vintage convertibles that appear only on this day for this specific purpose. Flags will fly from every house and store, as well as sprout from the clenched fist of small children as the parade of independence passes by.
We will barbecue and the grill smoke of PETA (people eating tasty animals) will waft in an unbroken cloud of charcoals goodness from sea to shining sea. The bays and rivers will be covered in flag draped boats. There will be swimmers, tubers and skiers as far as the eye can see. From Seattle to Miami the sound of freedom will ring as countless beer cans are popped open and raised in a toast to our freedom, our nation, our home. It will indeed be a grand holiday, this celebration of independence.
As night draws nye, we will begin to really act like Americans. We are going to blow some shit up! From the breathtaking spectacles that light New York harbor and the Grand Dame of liberty herself to the smallest of boys with a brick of purloined black cats the fireworks will boom and light up the night skies, as well as fill our nation’s emergency rooms. Nothing says freedom like a man with a 30 back of Bud and a mortar tube! There will be bells bonfires, guns and illuminations that would make Mr. Adams swell with pride form the depths of his most patriotic chest.
As we celebrate the day, pop our beers, light the night sky, march down Main Street praying the buttons hold for just two more blocks, grill up the best nature has to offer, dance on the dock or however we celebrate this day, please take time to remember something. Today, this day of celebrating the birth of our nation and realization of our founder’s dreams of liberty ,was paid for by all the generations before you. Many men and women have toiled in the service of liberty, of commerce, of the United States of America and all that means and holds, so that you could have this three day weekend of patriotism and fun. They paid with their blood, their work, their dreams, their very being so this nation could exist at this moment in time.
There were soldiers. My god, there were soldiers. Citizen soldiers with hopes of liberty and weary of oppression sitting behind the trenches of Bunker Hill. Frozen, dejected soldiers in the little handmade huts of Valley Forge. They were frozen, they were despondent but they held firm to one desperate dream. A free nation of free men and women, a land where your opportunities came not from your lineage or place of birth but form your hands, you back, your brains, your efforts, your dreams. They held on to that desperate desire and gave us that nation.
There were soldiers in the great tragedy of our Civil War. They fought against cousins, against neighbors and yes even against brothers each side struggling for their concept of freedom. They fought to right great wrongs and other fought to preserve their flawed way of life. The changing tide of history overwhelmed the South’s distorted view of the world but not before many brave men on both sides burned to death in the wilderness, or lay in the field of battle, thirsty alone and dying of brutal wounds. They died by the hundreds, nay, by the thousands in places like the bloody fields of Antietam and Gettysburg. In the end freedom was preserved for most, obtained for others, and the great Union was preserved.
In two great world wars there were American Soldiers. They died in the trenches of France in 1918. In 1945 they charged out of landing craft onto the beaches of Normandy. Those that fell lie buried from the majestic cemetery in France to unmarked, never to be found graves on shitty little islands all over the pacific. They lie from under the monument in Pearl Harbor to the bottom of the pacific in ships sunk decades ago that have never been, nor will be found. Freedom was threatened and soldiers answered the call.
They have continued to answer the call and soldiers have responded from the frozen reaches of Korea to the sweat soaked jungles of Vietnam. They still do from the sands of Iraq to the treacherous bloody mountains of Afghanistan. They fight for our freedom and often for the freedom of those they do not know and whose language they do not speak. Their nation calls and bravely fighting off the rising gorge of fear and vomit, soldiers have answered the call. My god, there have been and still are soldiers. We owe them a toast, frosty glass raised to the sky and voices raised still higher to thank and praise the American soldier. The made us free, the keep us free and they have paid in sacrifice, in their very youth and innocence and in their blood for our celebration this Fourth of July.
What about the great leaders who have helped to build and sustain this nation, this “shining city on the hill.” Not so much the shit bags that occupy DC today but those true leaders who like John Adam studied the science of politics and war so there sons and daughter could study mathematics and literature. The names and resonate and echo down the halls of history. Jefferson, Madison, Roosevelt, Lincoln, Reagan, Kennedy, Jackson, Truman, and yes, Adams. They made the decisions, the choices and sacrifices that have paid for today’s beer soaked joyous rituals.
There have been the builders, the creators, innovators whose dreams and achievements have powered our economy and our nation forward. Henry Ford, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, The Rockefellers, Bill Gates, Andrew Carnegie, Ted Turner, Walt Disney, the DuPonts, ray Kroc, Steve Jobs. This list could run on for pages of men and women who built industries, create jobs, improved our lives and built the fabric of our nation’s economic might. Their dreams, their creativity and their hard work also paid for today s holiday festivities.
Thank the poets, singers, dreamers and writers have made our culture so unique and wonderful raise that sweaty martini glass to Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Satchmo and the Duke (Ellington and Wayne). Give a tip of that bourbon glass to Twain, Faulkner, Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Raise your beer glass to Mencken, Brando, Newman and Mitchum. Raise your frosty cocktail to Frost, Whitman and Warhol. Give a tip of the bong to Hendrix, Joplin, Kerouac and the Allman Brothers. We have this crazy weird mixed up mish mash of people who have created some words, music and dreams that has produced art of the highest order.
Yes be sure to thank them all, Thank all the men and women who got up, went to work, paid the bills, raised the kids and made our nation work. Thank the teachers who have sat up all night grading papers and planning lessons. Thank the bankers who have made the loans that build our home, our factories and out nation. Above all thank those underpaid folks we have dubbed first responders. Thank the generations of Police officers who have put their life on the line every day to keep our nations safe and free. Thank the fire fighters who have rushed into hundreds of years of burning buildings to rescue those in danger and preserve our property. Thank them all, each and every America who made today, this moment with family, friends, music, friendship, love and frosty beverages ,possible.
Now wait my friend, now that you have toasted all those who made today possible, wait just a minute Don’t put that dog on the grill, turn the engine off, put the beer down and listen up. Your forefathers accept your thanks. Those Americans, those immigrants and Indians, sinners and saints, leaders and laborers, warriors and poets have a message for you. They are grateful for your thanks and they would do it all again. Pay the same price, conquer the same obstacles and face the same fears as they did it in the name of liberty and the cause of freedom. They lived, toiled dreamed and lived to better their own lives, their children’s and the lives of all those who have followed them. They have a charge for you, yes you, and for all of us. It is our turn.
They issue their charge to you in the words of Thomas Paine.” Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” Supporting freedom means practicing freedom and preserving liberty .It is our turn and frankly we are doing a shitty job of it. In the name of security and maximizing our personal benefits form the trough of government we risk the freedom that was given to us. We did not earn it; we did nothing but be born to enjoy it. We must preserve it for those who follow us as did those who came before us.
Practicing freedom is not always easy. It takes the courage to say I am going to follow my dreams and struggle each day to make the world better for me and mine. I will ask nothing of any man but his friendship and his trust. It means not turning to the government or society for your subsidence or for your luxuries. Freedom means you accept the responsibilities that come with it and are willing to shoulder your load, and even to help those around you with theirs. Not by the insistence of the authorities but out of the kindness of spirit and greatness that are the hallmark of your humanity.
Freedom means acceptance. Again Paine says it best.” He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach him.” Freedom has to mean the same to the family with 2.5 kids and a picket fence as it does to the gay couple who are willing to adopt, love and raise a child. Freedom has to be the same for the new (legal) immigrant with nothing but dreams and a willingness to work hard as it does to the man born here. The same freedoms extended to the folks at a posh uptown cocktail party must be extended ot the downtown folks who prefer to toke up. For your freedoms to exist you have to be willing to share it with those who do not look like you, think like you, love like you or live like you. Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness must apply however we chose to live that life or seek that happiness.
Freedom has been gifted to you. Preserve it, fight for it, practice it. You owe it those who gave it to you and to those who follow.
Now, fire up that grill. Open the bar, crank up the tunes and let’s get in going American style. Let’s get loud. Let’s get rowdy and blow the doors off this joint. Kiss the ones you love and do something to piss off the neighbors. Buy a soldier a drink..ah hell get him drunk .Take a coke to the cop on the corner, Drop some ribs by the firehouse.Toast the past as well as the future of our nation and the greatness of our people.
It is the Fourth of July. Let us go forth and blow some shit up. Mr. Adams demands it.