Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fourth of July

This had to be my most memorable 4th of July - 2004 - when Barack Obama was running for the U.S. Senate. As the local reporter covering the parade which passed my house annually, I was in a prime location when Obama and a contingent of local Democrats marched by. Who would have ever thought at that point that this tall, lean, man with a smile even bigger than mine, would become the 44th President of the United States?

This year's 4th of July paled in comparison. No longer living in Illinois where my chance encounter with Obama took place, I now live in Arkansas; no complaints here though. I love those typical, non-eventful days where the birds sing, the cats play, and the dog lazes around on the porch. The day was like any other, except for the tearful beginning -- a reminder of what the day is really all about.

Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar was a guest on Good Morning America to report that the statue of Liberty crown, high above New York Harbor on Ellis Island would re-open to visitors for the first time since Sept. 11, 2001. The New York Daily News held an essay contest for youngsters as reported on Good Morning America, where some of the entrants read portions of the essays they wrote. These young writers explained well that this day is not just about fireworks displays, eating and drinking too much, or parades through the street. Those are simply ways folks celebrate the real meaning of America's birthday, which is all too often forgotten.

If the words of youngsters aren't enough to bring a tear to your eye, check out the videos about the history of Ellis Island. If ever this great country is taken for granted, revisit this link.

The 4th of July always brings melancholy feelings at our house. Those old days along the parade route were filled with friends, family, and food, topped off by an afternoon dip in the backyard pool. Since moving, the change has been dramatic. But, that's OK. We still talk to family, there are new friends as well as the long-enduring ones. Cooking out is still an option. And the lake is just 10 minutes away for that afternoon dip.

But this year, we opted out of embracing the heat and humidity just to mingle with hoards of other people to watch fireworks displays. Besides, I am much more frugal these days and consider the thousands of celebrations across the country to be a bit of an unneeded, costly excess, especially in these economic times. I can't believe the occasional oohs and aahs are worth the excessive cost and potential environmental harm by hundreds of thousands of explosions, not to mention safety concerns that this tradition brings.

Count me out of the entertainment when it trumps the real meaning behind what this day is supposed to represent.