Yep, tomorrow is the big day, the nation’s birthday and it’s marked by being hotter than hell here in the States (or everywhere it seems but my part of Texas where the weather is drunk and it’s actually nice outside), parades, barbecues, and of course, the ever-popular fireworks.
I still remember being ten years old and visiting my family in England on the 4th and wondering why they didn’t do all these really nifty things. My uncle blandly informed me that celebrating America’s independence wasn’t necessarily British. I grinned and winked and then called him a sore loser. Much with the laughter that day.
But celebrating the 4th took on new meaning for me as I grew older and more aware of the world beyond my corner of the swimming pool or the apartments where I grew up. It became about celebrating our history—a very long and bloody history demarcated by numerous wars and tremendous loss in the 237 years since we declared that independence.
It’s marked by a harsh political chasm in our country that actually fought a civil war the last time we were so divided.
It’s marked by changes sometimes so slow as to be glacial and other times so swift, our heads spin.
It’s marked by an enduring spirit that at the end of the day, we are all Americans and despite our differences, we need to be that. We need to be the melting pot the country was envisioned to be.
From the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to allowing women in combat (not that they haven’t been there, but gender will no longer be a reason why women don’t qualify for those positions) to finally scaling back from two long-term conflicts we’ve been engaged in overseas for over a decade.
Celebrating the 4th of July isn’t about fireworks or hot dogs and hamburgers and summer blockbuster movies—it’s about us as a people. It’s our country’s birthday. We are all of these things and yet, we need to be more. It’s about celebrating who we are, who we can be, and where we’ve been, as well as where we are going.
It’s about patriotism.
It’s about service.
It’s about responsibility.
Being a citizen means work. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines work damn hard to defend our way of life and to protect our freedoms. For me, the 4th is about remembering and respecting that contribution, but also about working a little harder myself to give back and pay it forward. I know where I’ve been, I know where we’ve been as a nation and I know where I want to go.
I’m willing to work on it. Are you?
Don’t forget Melissa Schroeder is donating to Wounded Warriors for comments on her blog yesterday! Keep those comments coming.