A week before communities across the country stage July 4 firework extravaganzas, we need to ask an important question and deliver an honest answer to ourselves, our families and friends: What will we celebrate on that historic date in 2017?
It could be we salute 241 years of independence from the Mother Country, England, and all the physical, emotional and governmental battles that led to the writing, signing and releasing one of history’s most important documents — the Declaration of Independence.
It’s worth noting not only July 4, 1776 and the document that led to a government based on a Constitution designed to protect our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but the men and women who put their lives on the line when the future of our country was not a sure thing.
Or we could sing along with our neighbors and civic leaders a classic war-time song, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which in my mind is closely associated with the Civil War and the tens of thousands of Americans who died fighting to keep our country united.
President Lincoln stands tall some 150 years after the end of that tragic time in our nation’s history. He found a way to manage our country through divisive issues. He didn’t live to see his work completed: John Wilkes Boothe, a Confederate sympathizer, assassinated him to score a final point for a failed cause.
Other reasons to celebrate on the 4th: Americans who died on battlefields around the world; our country’s growth into a leading global power offering hope that democracy can — and should — provide a quality of life determined by education, hard work, love and compassion for fellow travelers on this round spinning planet known as Earth.
Unfortunately, July 4, 2017 approaches with our country widely divided by politics, led by many in government who are committed to scoring points with voters who believed what they heard during campaigns last fall and voted more with their hearts than with their minds.
Our leaders today, from the Bully President and his sidekick Vice President, to Republican Party leaders across the country, plan on celebrating our national holiday by touting an agenda that satisfies the wealthiest among us and ignores a major threat against our democracy by a long-time enemy, Russia.
When the fireworks light up the night skies this year, the pride and joy we usually feel in marking the founding of our country will be muted in many communities where thousands will wonder what the future holds. Will there be well-paying jobs for us as we grow old; will we or our family members survive serious illness that strikes unexpectedly; will our children and grandchildren receive an education that prepares them to compete in the 21st century workplace; will our planet endure the onslaught of human abuse that slowly destroys the environment?
Our nation’s leaders this year warn us constantly about the threat of terrorism from abroad, but the real terrorists are in our government — people intent on holding onto the power that voters have mistakenly given them based on promises of a better life, a better nation, a better world.
Joy in Mudville on July 4 this year will be hard to define. America’s position in the world is in shambles and few of our current leaders in Congress or the White House show respect for the work of those who held office before them. A lack of historical knowledge, of understanding the laws that forged this great country over more than two centuries means they don’t understand why there are fireworks on Independence Day.
The only question the Bully President will probably ask is “how much money poured into our businesses from the hugest fireworks show in the history of our great country?” Sad but most likely true.
Watch the fireworks, sing the standard patriotic songs — especially the “National Anthem” and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” — and find a way to pay respect to all the greatness that came before July 4, 2017.
There was a lot of it, and it should be the foundation on what eventually brings us together again as a nation.