In my childhood, the 4th of July in the U. S. was a magical day of red, white, and blue flags hanging at everyone’s house, really long community parades, making noise with cap guns, a backyard picnic of hot dogs and hamburgers and corn on the cob, and Dad supervising a small backyard display of colorful spinning fireworks that delighted and amazed us. Then we would go as a family to Mr. Donuts next to the phone company where my Dad was employed as an electrical engineer. We would sit on the landscaped grounds at the phone company’s headquarters munching our donuts–trying to keep the bugs off of us–and watching the real fireworks display going off across the state route at a private country club that we didn’t belong to as we listened to the local radio station playing all the patriotic songs, ending with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture–even more magical. There is a simplicity of such childhood memories that make me smile in remembrance.
So for those of us who adore fireworks displays set to music, I hope that you enjoy the following video.
“Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular 2011”, a video by rapalje074
But what does the 4th of July signify? How did it come to be? Why is it so important? The following video tries to answer that question by reminding us what the Declaration of Independence document says and stands for.
“JOHN ADAMS – THE VOTE”, a video by themisterskinny (and they read the Declaration of Independence)
In the movie “Independence Day”, the world comes together to fight off aliens trying to wipe humanity off the Earth to take over our planet. Okay, it is part science fiction, part feel good bravado. However looking deeper, it is a chilling tale told engagingly that might allude to other invasions by one country to another in world history. But what is so stirring about this tale is that the often fractured, sometimes disjointed, and very diverse people of the Earth come together in a common cause–their mutual survival, by recognizing their interdependence upon one another. Actor Bill Pullman portraying President Whitmore gives a stirring speech just before a rag tag assemblage of citizen pilots attempt to defeat the alien enemy.
“Independence Day: President’s Speech”, a video by moviemomentsAUS
It would be so easy to end this post right here–with flags waving and touting only our nation’s successes. But then, that would be dishonoring the sacrifices that people have made for this country. Our great nation has survived–and will continue to survive–because we look at ourselves with a critical eye, always striving to be better than we were, and more than we thought we could be.
But, we cannot dismiss that our nation has marginalized many of its citizens at different points in our history–to our continuing shame if we forget the human cost it engendered then and now. The movie musical “1776” from 1972 has a tense scene in which personal ideals and principles of the founders of this nation sadly cave into the exigence of forging alliances with slave states to create a new nation to be thereafter known as the United States of America. And this video stands in stark contrast to the seemingly easily won alliances displayed in the “John Addams” video earlier in this post.
“1776 – The Vote (1972)”, a video by RMNHobie (from the musical 1776, the 1972 movie)
And here is a gleamingly celebratory modern day response to that 1776 compromise, in a video by Dr. Maya Angelou reciting her poem “And Still I Rise” (the link is here since I was not able to embed it):
“Dr. Angelou Recites ‘And Still I Rise’ on Vimeo”
How different would our nation be today if all its peoples helping to forge and build a new nation were deemed citizens in 1776 and respected and valued for their contributions? Would we have fewer prisons because education would be deemed a right for all and not just for a privileged few–thereby giving more individuals hope for making a better life for themselves? Would we have the cure for cancer because someone’s genius was nurtured and mentored at a young age such that he or she flourished? The what if’s are many. But we can only go forward, promising ourselves, our fellow citizens, and our neighbors in other nations that we will do better.
Here is a final reflection of what days like the 4th of July means to me–and to so many. My late father was a World War II veteran of the Pacific Theater of Operations. Gratefully, he was too young to be involved in direct fighting–so he was in an engineering unit that rebuilt roads and bridges and other infrastructure that had been destroyed by the war. Yet, he did not come home unscathed. A land mine that had been found–and partially disarmed by removing its napalm component–went off near him and he carried the shrapnel in his leg all of his life. He never talked about his war experiences with us. But Dad instilled in we kids a reverence for our nation–and a wish to honor the sacrifices that others have made for our nation to exist–that I feel deeply to this day. After Dad had nearly two years of strokes that slowly eroded his abilities and he became wheelchair bound and required skilled nursing care, I attended his care facility’s November 11th, 2010 Veteran’s Day service with him. My gaunt father–half his former size–was dressed in his now cavernous suit and tie and sat in the front row with other veterans. The opening of the event began with us all singing “The Star Spangled Banner”. Naturally everyone rose to sing our national anthem out of respect. And not surprisingly, my father sitting in front of me struggled to stand–even though he had not walked in six months. And with me standing behind him supporting him under his arms–and someone standing to his side lending a hand–my father stood and mouthed the words to the national anthem, with his hand over his heart. This memory still brings me to tears–for his courage, for his sacrifice, and for what this nation means to its citizens and individuals around the world. We are not perfect, but we strive to be better than we are at any given moment.
So, to honor our nation always striving to be better–and our leaders who help to keep us on that path–here is a video of our national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner” as sung by Beyonce Knowles in a video by Othq8:
“Beyonce USA National Anthem Live @Super Bowl 2004 [HQ]”
So however you celebrate this 4th of July, I hope you have a happy, healthy, and safe holiday.