Independence Day

I don’t know if you can say that we celebrated Independence Day or not. We grilled hamburgers and hot dogs; the traditional American meal of celebration. We dutifully watched the NYC fireworks display on television. But I don’t think any of us felt much like we were celebrating. Our situation here is just that difficult at the moment. We gathered. We ate. We had fellowship and all that. And then we wandered off into our own little worlds.
Okay, so I’m an unrepentant cynic. While we were watching the fireworks show, Mara had to nudge me a couple of times because I grumbled about the commercialism and media manipulation; like the segment of the audience who all just happened to be holding identical Olympics flags (NYC’s bid for the Olympics, anyone?), or the fact that every third image was of the segment of military personnel who had been carefully put on display. And don’t go giving me any crap about not supporting our troops. Putting soldiers on display like a featured attraction is not supporting our troops; it is capitalizing on their service.
My body also didn’t respond well to the hamburgers and hot dogs. We just don’t eat stuff like that very often. My reaction was so sudden that I began to wonder if I had gotten a mild case of food poisoning.
I’m trying not to be a grouch here. I guess the day was overshadowed by the fact that we didn’t feel like celebrating at all. For my own part, I’m easily offended that so many Americans rush out on the 4th of July and wrap themselves in the flag, but then immediately retreat into their caches on the 5th. Thanks to the Republicans our country is more divided than ever. And thanks to our financial situation, the 4th seemed mostly an unwanted disruption for me. If not for the fact that the country essentially shuts down for the 4th, I might have been back on the road by now, making money and making a living.
For all my complaints, I truly am grateful for my fortune at being born an American. It certainly is true that in the United States one with the proper will and ambition can raise himself up from nothing to amazing heights of success. If he knows how to play the game. And while I believe that our Freedom is, in large part, an illusion because we are free only within a certain framework, I am keenly aware of the incredibly harsh limitations on personal freedoms elsewhere in the world. However it may sound, I’m grateful for what we have.
I suppose sometimes I just grow weary of the stench of plastic and the steady drone of propaganda and patriotic music. I understand and appreciate that there’s a certain aspect of show in putting on a good show. But sometimes I get tired of the easy-opening seal on the well of freedom. I couldn’t help thinking tonight while watching the fireworks that we live in a country where we will spend untold millions of dollars on fireworks displays and flags to wave for the cameras, but our Government won’t allow the public to see images of the flag-draped coffins of our brave soldiers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan; Americans who served their country and paid for our right to put on these gaudy plastic displays of cheap and easy patriotism with their lives.
Today is a day of celebration. I understand that. But sometimes I feel that Americans are like some of the people in the crowds at the recent Live 8 shows, who just showed up at an event. We’re like “Oh, this is about poverty in Africa, is it? I had no idea. That’s good. Someone needs to do something about that. Would you like to buy a bottle of water? Perhaps a souvenir t-shirt?”
Maybe I’ll feel better later on. Maybe I’ll buy the DVD of the NYC fireworks show when it comes out. What better way to show your patriotism than by purchasing the official DVD?

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