Thursday, July 03, 2008

In praise of the 4th of July

As we approach the 4th of July (also known as National Blow a Finger and Thumb Off Day) I grow reflective. Despite my Liberal (whatever that means in this day and age) leanings, I too am capable of feeling the pangs of patriotism, though maybe not for the same things other folks do.

America is a constant experiment, sometimes getting it right, sometimes getting it very wrong. Denying we fuck up sometimes does not make you more of a patriot, since if you deny it, you can't fix it. And though it takes a while as a society, I honestly believe we tend to stumble more or less in the right direction.

I don't think we have a monopoly on virtue, nor do I think we have one on vice. We have our share of heroic people, doing brave, selfless things, as well as venal, mean-spirited, self-serving assholes. I guess it takes all kinds.

But I digress.

This may sound dumb but one of my favorite things about this holiday, and one that makes me feel most American, is that hallowed tradition of the neighborhood 4th of July parade. I like this more than hot dogs, fireworks or patriotic sing-alongs.

Tomorrow morning I'll get up, have my coffee, and wander down the street to Elizabeth Boulevard, which serves as the practical dividing point between Fairmount and Ryan Place (even though the real boundary is Jessamine, the next block) and stand along the tree-lined curbs with the other neighborhood folk, waiting for this year's collection of kazoo bands, lawn-chair drill teams, local politicos and whoever else to wind their way through the streets. I like this for the same reason I like minor league baseball.

I don't know why, but this sort of thing -- the improvisional, "what the hell," do-it-yourself aspect of all this -- renews some small part of my faith in my country's ability to get its shit together.

For years this was just the Ryan Place parade, but over the last few years, Ryan Place has graciously consented to have its slightly funkier neighbor to the north be a co-participant.

I maybe wrong, but I don't think they do this sort of thing in Gated Enclaves. It's their loss.

How about you? Does your neighborhood have a parade on the 4th?


Pete Wann said...

Well, since you watched my neighborhood's parade, I'd say that yes, we do have a neighborhood parade. :)

Dr Ralph said...

Nicely played, sir!

Dan Brekke said...

Out here in Berkeley, we have a Fourth of July picnic every year. We moved in here 20 years ago, and it had been going for awhile then; this year's turnout was the biggest I've seen.

The centerpiece of the event is a watermelon-seed spitting contest; in fact, I've blogged about it Wide World of Sports-like. The watermelon-seed spitting contest even includes an improv dramatic category. Sometimes we read the Declaration of Independence aloud.

Before any of that gets under way, though, we have a little two-block parade for all the kids and dogs and hangers-on, complete with flags waving (mostly Old Glory, but also banners of the Bear Republic, the United Nations, peace movement, and Gaia). There's a boombox playing Sousa and Monty Python. It's enthusiastic and yeah, kind of inspiring.