Thursday, June 29, 2006

Independence Day

Yesterday I saw a TV commercial for a car sale. A "4th of July" car sale. The ad flashed images of shiny new cars, parked neatly in their rows, beckoning for some patriotic American to come and take them home. "America the Beautiful" was the song chosen by the car company to accompany the ad. "America the Beautiful". I don't get much opportunity to sing the historic songs of patriotism these days, but I'm pretty sure that "America the Beautiful" doesn't include anything about the beauty of "rows of shiny cars".

I am disappointed by the way that we Americans observe our national, patriotic holidays. Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veteran's Day. Now, I recognize that Independence Day differs from the other two. Independence Day should be a day of celebration. It is the day that we celebrate the birth of our nation. We SHOULD celebrate! But not with car sales. Not with 0% financing until 2008. How do those things commemorate the sacrifices made by our founding fathers?

I am preaching to myself here. I haven't quite figured out exactly the best way to celebrate. I have an inkling that an appropriate Independence Day celebration would include family and friends enjoying one another's company, enjoying the freedom that was so hard-earned by those who came before us. It would include a time to reflect on what we are celebrating. It would include an act of gratitude toward those who are still making sacrifices to maintain our freedom. The other patriotic holidays - Memorial Day and Veteran's Day, specifically - should be observed similarly, I think, only perhaps not so lightheartedly. These days are, after all, set aside as times to remember and appreciate our servicemen and women, especially those who have given their lives for our country. They are not necessarily meant to be happy occasions. (Contrary to popular belief, we do not need to be happy all the time.) If I may make so bold a comparison, Memorial Day is to Independence Day as Good Friday is to Easter. A horrible day, a day of ultimate sacrifice. Without it, we would have nothing to celebrate. And, just as Easter is not about pastel eggs and candy, so Independence Day should not be about fireworks and barbecues. These things are ways that we can enjoy the day, but if they obstruct the true meaning, then they are worthless.

So now I'm thinking about how to celebrate. Here are some ideas:

  • Learn all of the verses to The Star-Spangled Banner and read a biography of Francis Scott Key.
  • Volunteer at a VA hospital.
  • Spend an afternoon visiting with residents at a nursing home (lots of WWII veterans now live in communities like this).
  • Support our active duty military personnel.
  • Read the Declaration of Independence.
  • Spend time as a voter registration volunteer.
  • Make sure YOU are registered to vote!
  • Visit a veterans' memorial.
  • Watch a movie that portrays the sacrifices made for the sake of freedom, such as The Patriot, Glory, Saving Private Ryan, or We Were Soldiers.

Have a happy Independence Day.

1 comment:

janenetindall said...

These are great thoughts, thank you for sharing. I too have been unsure as to how to observe the special days you mentioned, as I'm not sure I'm content simply treating them as a relief day from work - I'm sure that was NOT the idea when they were made national holidays. You've given me some great ideas and things to think about!