In a few days, I will be gathering with my parents and my husband and kids and my sister and her family to celebrate two important things: July 4th and my dad’s 80th birthday on July 6th. We will be in Maine, attending the small town parades, and there will be a lot of veterans marching and children waving flags. Last July 4th was the first Independence Day since President Trump had been elected, and my husband and I were so appalled by the damage being done, to foreign policy and the environment among other things, that we happily ignored the holiday. It also helped that we were traveling in Portugal at the time and could distance our family from the usual celebrations.
But this year is different because July 4th is important to my parents. Both my husband and my maternal grandfathers fought in World War II. My husband’s grandfather, whom I never got to meet, was a prisoner of war in Japan and went through severe suffering. Most Americans have family members who have fought to preserve our freedom, and many have soldiers out there today, sacrificing their lives and keeping us safe. It’s easy to get blasé and think that celebrating doesn’t matter, but it does. Even though I don’t agree with most of what this current administration does, I do believe in the flag and what it symbolizes. I remember that there have been times in United States history and in world history as well, when a leader has been destructive. But the earth keeps spinning and humans realize that this too shall pass.
No matter what country you are from, remember that your flag symbolizes what your country stands for. I am grateful that a bunch of rag tag colonists took on Great Britain, and, against all odds, won. I am grateful that our country finally realized that slavery was wrong and worked to abolish it. I am grateful that labor laws were created to protect women and children from being abused as cheap labor. I am grateful that people are finally waking up to the importance of #Black Lives Matter and #Me Too. I do believe that having a destructive president is forcing people to remember that our flag and our freedom and our democracy cannot be taken for granted ever.
In honor of all those who have fought, whether those brave colonists fighting with pitchforks if that is all they had, or abolitionists who helped redefine what was right, or women fighting for the right to vote, or blacks fighting for the right to be treated equally, I salute all of those who have fought for what matters. It may be a disheartening time right now, but we shall overcome this too.
And in honor of my dad, who almost 80 years ago came into this world in Portland, Oregon on a very hot July day with no air conditioning to a mother who had planned to have a few more children after him but stopped because he was so stubborn, Happy Birthday, Dad! The world would be a better place if everyone were like you– kind, fair, courageous, hard-working, honest, funny, athletic, great with kids and grandkids, and a great Canasta player, golfer and singer.
This summer, go find that world stage. And if you are an American, happy July 4th!