Independence Day · 4 July 2008

The old joke goes, “Do they have the fourth of July in England? Of course, they do. Every country has a fourth of July.” And of course, every country does indeed have a fourth day in the month of July. But not every country has an Independence Day.

It seems that everybody loves the fourth of July. People have picnics and fireworks displays and other celebrations. Most people just love to get together. I have even known people who like to celebrate their independence by getting fireworks that are not strictly legal in the places they reside. Fortunately for our family, we live in a place where aerial and other fun fireworks are allowed. At least from 9:00 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. on July fourth.

Our oldest son, Thing 1, looked up the regulations for fireworks and found that this fifteen hour time frame was when fireworks were actually allowed by the law in Snohomish County. Naturally, people shoot them off at all times of day and several days before and after the fourth. Which is why Thing 1 wanted to know why I said he could only shoot off his fireworks on Independence Day. He wanted to know if I was right. Or rather, he wanted to prove that I was wrong.

Like the original celebrants of Independence Day, my son was trying to celebrate his own independence. He wanted us to know that he had gotten some fireworks with his own money and was going to fire them off. But alas, his own independence celebration would have to wait until it was legal for him to fire off the noisemakers. On July fourth, Independence Day.

The thing is, I am not sure that July fourth is really a celebration of Independence Day anymore. Celebrations with family and friends are important in our great nation but if, as many of us do, we are just celebrating a day off from work, I do not think we get the point. Thing 1 is trying to assert his independence from us, his parents, and he is probably closer to understanding the true meaning of Independence Day than many of us celebrating our freedom from work.

I wonder if we are all a little like Thing 1. I wonder if we all just want to assert our independence on the fourth of July. I wonder if we all want to say that we are free from tyranny. I wonder if we are still a wild nation full of bravado and the will to back up all our talk of freedom and justice for all. I wonder if July fourth is truly thought of anymore as Independence Day.

When I was growing up, Independence Day meant a big parade with marching bands and lots of flags. There was family and food to be sure, and there were always lots of fireworks. I remember being proud of my cousins in the marching band and proud of the flags flying high. And I loved watching the fireworks in the sky.

I do not know that I knew exactly what Independence Day was back then, but I hope I remember it now. I hope I remember that true independence does not come without a heavy cost. I hope that I remember that blood, sweat, and tears have all been shed to make and keep our nation independent and free. Mostly, I hope that I remember the old joke I mentioned at the beginning, and I pray that the United States of America does not become one of all those other nations that just has a fourth of July instead of an Independence Day.

© 2008 Michael T. Miyoshi

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