Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Fourth of July

I'm really glad that the Fourth of July is over -- finally. It appears that long ago the country lost all respect for the holiday and now it is just another hot, steamy summer day.

Growing up, the Fourth of July was exciting. It was fun to have a holiday smack dab in the middle of summer. The 4th meant having fun with friends I hadn't seen very often since school was out. We would ride our bikes to the local parade and watch the bands and proverbial red-white-and-blue bunting. Our family would haul out the big American flag and hang it from the front porch. We usually grilled burgers on the patio. Night time meant fireworks at a local park. It was tradition and fun, despite being fairly predictable.

Well, times have changed.

First of all, there are the fireworks. Fireworks are illegal in our state, though they are sold from temporary tents erected around the county. Laws prohibit fireworks being discharged "within the city limits" unless it is by a licensed group, like the Chamber of Commerce. However, fireworks were discharged in our neighborhood for six consecutive evenings beginning on June 30. These were loud, explosive firecrackers which are easily purchased in a neighboring state. By the way, that other state does allow the discharge of such fireworks inside municipalities.

That was obnoxious enough. No, I don't have a small child who goes to bed early or a dog, neither of which would be too thrilled with the noise. And these were really LOUD explosions, set off relatively near to the homes in the area. Our neighborhood is in the middle of town, not near a park or overlooking a lake or marina. It was quite disturbing. The final night of fireworks, last Saturday night (July 6) ended at approximately 11:00 p.m.

It is widely known that the local police department will seldom perform any task that requires effort. You can phone the P.D. if you have a problem. But even a friend of mine, formerly on the City Council, laughs about the police in our fair community. He told me, "Seriously, if I ever have a real problem, I would never call the police. I would be better off to call the Fire Department because they will actually do something."

Many readers may recognize their community's crime fighters in that description. Enough said about local government.

But the Fourth of July has been diluted from its origin. Rarely do any programs retell the story of the nation's founding. I will give credit to specials and features over this past 4th that discussed the Battle of Gettysburg which was observing its 150th anniversary. The Battle of Gettysburg -- and, in fact, the entire Civil War -- is a chapter we must never forget. It remains a pivotal chapter in American history.

Sadly, the Fourth of July has become something far less than it should ever have become. It now means sales on everything from mattresses to cars -- and little more. Trying to run errands on July 5th was also strange. Many businesses were closed as they took advantage of the holiday. Who could blame them? Many people were out of town anyway, so what's a little lost business income?

Because the date floats unlike many of our 3-day weekend holidays, it is hard to schedule any type of out-of-town travel since many businesses resume work on the following day. The Fourth of July has become a blip on the screen and it deserves more.

Hey, guys. Let's be consistent here. Why not observe the 4th on a fixed date? We know that February 12 was actually Lincoln's birthday and February 22 was Washington's birthday. But we combined the two dates together and observe "Presidents' Day" as a fixed holiday, always on the third Monday in February. That way, we all know that we are marking a national holiday and there is no mystery about what is open.

Whether anyone ever proposes to make the 4th a stationary holiday, we should do more to observe our country's history. It's unfortunate that a holiday as important as the Fourth of July has become nothing more than a reason to buy home furnishings at a discount.

Oh, yes. Don't forget the week-long explosion of fireworks.













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