My best July 4th? A picnic on the National Mall, a blanket laid out with fried chicken, butter dripping off the corn-on-the-cob, and good-sized slices of watermelon. Finish up with from-scratch cherry or blueberry pie oozing with fruit on tender pastry.
Independence Day combines family, food, and fireworks with John Phillip Sousa’s marching tunes. Another tradition on the National Mall–we knew to listen for Tchaikovsky’s (War of) 1812 Overture. On the Fourth they used real cannons and we knew what came next—the fireworks.
Not just any fireworks, but the loudest, most colorful display we’d ever seen. Red, green, blue, yellow, purple bursts high above us that seemed the size of a city block—one on top of another, then side-to-side, flipping and disappearing, so another could appear to complete with a waterfall of white bursts shimmering nearly to the ground.
Washington’s fireworks are also the smokiest display with the smell of gunpowder descending into the audience, bringing me back to the origin of July 4th, 1776. Fifty-six men from the 13 Colonies (it was just men then) signed the Declaration of Independence, putting Britain on notice that they would no longer be subject to its rule.
So America’s Independence Day 2020 isn’t just a display of fireworks, food, and family gatherings. It’s Freedom, but it comes with a price. How are we addressing basic freedoms in 2020? A year ago my blog “Celebrating a Nation of Promise. . .and Contradiction” gave a hint of the future ahead of us. We’re still struggling to deliver that word “freedom” and we’re realizing it isn’t doled out equally.
After months confined to working or studying from home makes us eager to return to life as we once knew it—to be independent once again. Freedom has more than one meaning when you are in close quarters with others—you can’t be free yourself if you are endangering others. The phrase “what goes around comes around” seems trite, but we can all do our part.
People with the virus don’t turn green or have measles or mumps, so they can be treated before infecting others. To avoid spreading the disease, we need to wear a mask if we’re older than ten and wash our hands frequently. Maybe the hardest part is staying six feet away from people who are not in our family, depending on where we live.
Now freedom requires responsibility. If you look at it in a different way—it gives new meaning to the word “freedom.” It is being part of something greater than yourself. Take precautions, suffer a little discomfort in to protect your community and eventually get businesses opening their doors. It’s what they attempted to do in 1776 to begin to create a nation. You can help create a healthy nation.
So enjoy the fried chicken, cherry pie, corn on the cob, the music, squeeze your family members, and carefully send up some fireworks, but set aside a little time to think about what freedom means in 2020 and how to make a difference.