When I awoke this morning, I saw a bright sunny day. I was able to prepare a nutritious but simple breakfast – quinoa, fruit, almonds. There was coffee. My shower with soap was possible as there was enough water to wash the soap off (there are many places in the world where this is NOT the norm).
The birds were tweeting as I dressed and I heard a cat meow – it was that quiet! A very nice start to my 4th of July – a day for me to REFLECT, as opposed to celebrate. I am filled with pride at American History – I am also a realist. Not all of what we do at the end of the day in this country is perfect, it is just better than any other coutnry. We are still the country which provides the dream to people all over world the possibility of becoming a citizen.
I wanted to meditate and thank those who made my life possible. Except for planes from an airport or news/police helicopters, I don’t hear much sound in the sky. While I have witnessed visually (and in my lungs) layers of smog, it is not all encompassing. There have been many droughts in my life time and yet there has been potable water I did not need to run through a filter and/or heat unless camping. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say I live a life few outside of the western world have access to. This life was ‘given’ to me by the sweat, tears and blood of others. These others are who I honor.
I wanted to think about the British prisoners who were first shipped here when Britain outgrew them ( No, Virginia, the Pilgrims did not settle America – it was already settled by Native Americans!). I forced myself to think of all the wars fought against the British, against the Native Americans, and the wars we fought against one another over beliefs (we still fight these wars today, just not on the same mass scale as the Civil War). I thought about the wars we have fought, right or wrongly in the hopes of providing a greater good to others. Next, I thought about the men and women abroad on this day – far from home, far from comfort, far from their family and doing that which many of us either fear or seem to loathe and will not participate.
“Clearly, young people would prefer to be doing other things,” said Beth Asch, a senior economist at RAND Corporation who specializes in defense manpower issues.
I thought about my father who had served in the U.S. Army during the last great draft.
My life is privileged beyond what most can ever hope to attain in this lifetime. I have a well stocked library within one mile of home, there is fresh food. There is infrastructure and electricity. I have a cell phone. My neighbors say good morning. I am allowed to worship my interpretation of God and listen to the music of my choice. Just about everything in my life is attainable with some elbow grease.
Every successful business person in America “has enjoyed that success because of the sacrifice of someone else’s sons and daughters” in uniform, Garland said. The argument echoes a concern repeated often over the decade: War efforts have fallen on the shoulders of the few, while the lives of the many went largely unencumbered. Or as some troops have been fond of saying: “We went to war, America went to the mall.”
The only way I can ever say THANK YOU to all the people who made the quality of my life possible, I need to show respect, honor and demonstrate a level of deportment in line with showing deference.
What I realized as I sat on the side of the street as the local parade went by was many people see 4th of July as some sort of annual party. It is ordinary and routine. You go out and buy stuff to decorate your house. In and of itself, it is not bad to have a party and invite friends over.
There was none of the honorable pomp for our military. There was no dignity, save for the soldiers themselves – Army, Coast Guard, National Guard, ROTC….it was as if others thought they were merely providing entertainment for us, the parade goers. I did not see people standing nor anyone even putting their hand over their heart. I was one of the very FEW clapping and saying ‘Thank You’.
While I know this scene and public behavior would be different in various parts of the U.S., it surprised me how insulated we were here in my immediate community. I don’t know how waylaid – we used to be a Navy town. We have Coast Guard Island and yet the tone of the parade was off – by the observers, the very ones who are supposed to be ‘celebrating’ our freedom.
Part of me wonders if it is our lack of teaching history (until a few years ago it was not ‘tested’ so of little value). Another part of me wonders if we have become so comfortable in our little perceived world we forget what we are even about anymore. The 4th of July is neither ordinary or routine. It is a celebration worthy of our full attention – including different behavior.