Most Americans see the 4th of July simply as a summertime 3 day weekend. A chance to fire up the grill, fill an ice chest with frosty beverages, get together with friends and family and maybe head off to the beach, lake or other casual destination. Fireworks are always fun to watch and after you get the hang of it, great to photograph as well.
I'd like to encourage everyone, during the course of these festivities, to take a few moments with the folks around you and reflect on the true nature of this holiday - to honor the founding fathers who so carefully crafted the words that are the fabric of this nation. Who did so at great risk of imprisonment or death had our fight for independence failed. It is to honor the 25,000 american soldiers who gave their lives and another 25,000 seriously wounded in a fight to ensure their families could live in a truly free democracy. Those courageous men and women fought and won our independence against tremendous odds, going up against the most powerful nation on the planet at that time. I'm always in awe at the bravery, spirit, ingenuity, and fortune of the American colonists. They not only changed a small group of cities, town and farms into the genesis of this great nation, but they changed the course of world history.
When I see the social chasms in the world today - political oppositions, religious factions, ideological divides with all the associated bickering and squabbling that pervades the news, social media and dinner table conversations (does anyone else have dinner conversations anymore?) I sometimes scratch my head and wonder "what's wrong with us today" but look back on the peace movement of the 60-70s, the civil rights movement, the suffrage era, prohibition, emancipation, etc., it becomes evident that open, sometimes heated, and even violent discourse is nothing new to American society. In fact, at a very macro level, it may be one of our biggest strengths. I'm not condoning those individual, radical and sometimes illegal acts committed in the support of position or another. I mean, taken as a whole, we enjoy a freedom of expression unknown in most of the world which allows us to try to work through difficult issues as a people. This, I feel, is the single most important gift the men who penned the Declaration of Independence gave to American citizens.
Happy Birthday, America. We have had, have today, and will always have issues but we will work through them - and in the end, be stronger as a people. Now, I'm off to flip some burgers and reach into that cooler for a cold one. Cheers!