Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day

The last two times I met with the little 8-9 year old girls I volunteer with, we talked about the 4th of July. We talked about George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and all those big words in the Declaration of Independence. We had a WWII veteran come and talk about his life and why people sometimes have to go to war. We learned how to properly and respectfully fold the American flag and why it has 13 stripes and 50 stars. And at the end of it all I asked them for about the 15th time, "So why do we celebrate the 4th of July?" One little girl, without a second thought, threw up both her hands and with gusto shouted "FIREWORKS!"

I then wanted to slam my head against the nearest wall. All this talk about important things and historical things and all they got out it was things that go boom. But I got to thinking; these little folk are still kids, they will have plenty of history lessons in school, plenty of time to remember dates and famous names and all the whys and hows. Celebrating Independence Day is about remembering and celebrating those harrowing days and events way back in the 1700's but it is also about celebrating the whole American story. Some years I feel like, "Phew, we're still here. Let's put some fire in the sky for that." Our country, like every other country, has a rich story; good chapters and bad chapters,  heroes and villains, and golden eras and dark days. But it is our story, unlike any other land and people ever, anywhere in the history of everything.  And it is  a story that is still being written . . . by us, about us.

One of the great themes that I draw from a lot in American History is that of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.  Many of our patriots, presidents and historical leaders, explorers, poets, artists, inventors, builders and activists came from humble beginnings.  They didn't let situation or circumstance stop them from doing great things. We are truly a nation of underdogs.  That is what I like to celebrate every 4th of July. That really is what America or these United States mean to me; greatness and goodness can be a reality for every soul willing to work hard, willing to try, fail and try again, willing to stand up and speak out.  I am still trying to figure out my own American Dream, but what I do know is that that dream really can be limitless, even if I am old and have already lived half a dozen lives.  I still can be almost anything and everything that I want. Well, maybe not Wonder Woman,  my attempts to find some Amazon heritage have been pretty futile.

"Merica YAY!

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