4th of July. What are the top 3 things that pop into your head when you think about Independence Day? BBQ? The American flag? Parades? Swimming and sunblock? I think of those things, too. And I always picture little redcoats running toward the Atlantic with American soldiers whooping and hollering behind them like banshees. And if I'm feeling particularly patriotic, I'll occasionally think of my fellow men and women in arms who might get a celebratory non-alcoholic beer when they return from patrol.
But if there's one thing I tend to appreciate with every fiber of my being, one thing I never forget to consider on holidays like this, it's that I live in a country that allows me to say what I want, eat what I want, love who I want, and yes, be an idiot whenever the heck I want. I'm thankful. But not everyone is.
The First Reason Why the 4th of July Makes Me Crazy:
Anti-American complainers sittin' around eating hamburgers
Yes, America has some pretty terrible flaws. Yep, we ain't perfect, as Yahoo commentors and all other "I hate America" people tend to remind us every chance they get. But do you wake up every morning and wonder if today is the day your home is going to be razed to the ground? Do you lose family members as they make their way to church? Do you worry your baby girl will be mutilated because she is female? Do you struggle to get to the grocery store without getting blown up?
Reality check, people. We don't live in this kind of fear each day. We have the privilege to worry about things like equal rights, organic food, and global warming. We have the privilege to protest, donate to charities, and run for special causes. We have the privilege to act on behalf of what we think is right and just and moral and good. We have the privilege to live here.
And why do we have this privilege? Well, because we have the best goshdamn military this world has ever seen. We have men and women who fight, and train, and learn, and conduct covert missions, and disarm, and negotiate, and yes, kill those who want our freedom dead. We have a group of people who dedicate themselves to protecting your right to say what you want, eat what you want, love what you want, and yes, be an idiot whenever the heck you want. And these people ask nothing of you. Matter of fact, from my experience, they don't even live in the same world as you. They run in the background of your life, rarely considered, occasionally honored through embarrassing parades and assemblies, but infrequently thought of when you're planning BBQs and fireworks displays and camping trips. And that's ok, you know. Most of the servicemen and women I know don't want to be acknowledged on the daily show. They don't want fame and fortune and to be called "heroes." You know what most of them want? Peace. They want peace, people. And the love they fought to protect. And maybe a little bit of respect for mastering something you are privileged to never know anything about.
The Second Reason Why the 4th of July Makes Me Crazy:
Money, money, money, money
You know what is the complete opposite of the peace, love, and respect I mentioned above? Half-price mattresses. Furniture blowouts. Annual 4th of July sales.
A soldier doesn't risk her life so another guy can get rich.
How about we stop commercializing and monetizing our patriotism. How about we make our patriotic holidays less about flag-covered paper plates and more about respecting the freedom we've been given. A discounted bedroom set doesn't do anyone any good. You know what does?
Spending money on wounded service members: http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/
Or homeless veterans: http://www.supporthomelessveterans.org
Or this homeless Marine who is also a musical genius: http://www.gofundme.com/yc3p2e6
And it's not all about the money. Which leads me to the third reason the 4th of July makes me crazy. Lemmie explain.
The Third Reason Why the 4th of July Makes Me Crazy:
Our freedom isn't free, but respect and courtesy doesn't cost you a dime
Those soldiers who fought overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan? Well, most of them experienced some pretty loud booms, occasionally accompanied (post ear-ringing) by the screams of their fallen battle buddies. This is not an easy holiday for them. I'm a firsthand witness to what happens to a solider during fireworks season. It's not in any way pretty. So while it's unrealistic to think fireworks should be limited to large-scale events, try to be considerate. If you know you've got a veteran in your hood, especially a veteran of our current fight in the middle east where bombs are more common than guns, consider lighting off something with a little less firepower. Those homemade cannons you shoot off in your backyard might inadvertently send your neighbor straight back to Iraq. What a way to show respect for all she or he did.
And speaking of fireworks, how many of you know what those booms are all about? Any of you tell your kids what fireworks represent? How about saturating those precious little minds with a bit of history and reference before they head out to the show this weekend? Beautiful display, yes. But what does it represent? Can you feel it? Can they?
The 4th of July is a day of celebration for our freedom - a freedom so many seem to forget comes at a hefty price. It doesn't take much to transform a day that's become a self-absorbed marketing ploy into a day worthy of the sacrifices our soldiers made. If you do nothing else to show respect to the real reason behind our independence, at the very least ensure your day is filled with love and peace. There's no better way to honor and respect those who died....and those who still live.
Happy Independence Day, America. May you forever be the land of the free, home of the brave.