As much as anything, holidays are about remembering. The Fourth of July has no shortage of reminders.
If you follow from year to year, you can almost become numb to them:
Be careful with fireworks so you don’t start a fire or injure yourself or someone else.
Don’t explode firecrackers near your pets.
Don’t fire guns into the air.
Don’t leave your pets and children alone in vehicles, especially during this hot weather.
Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated in the summer heat.
Traffic will be heavy. Slow down and drive defensively.
If you drink alcohol, designate a driver to get you home safely.
Keep your food cooled and covered on picnics so it doesn’t spoil.
Wear flotation devices when you’re on the water.
Keep watch on small children near pools, lakes and streams.
Donate blood because supplies run low this time of year.
Fly your flag to show your patriotism.
It’s the last one that we’ll focus on today, although they are all valid and good to heed.
Remembering to display a flag, though, shouldn’t be solely about respecting a cloth stitched with 13 red and white stripes and 50 white stars on a field of blue.
Flying the flag or covering your heart with your hand as those stars and stripes are marched past you in a parade should be more about remembering the ideals of the republic for which it stands.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” the Declaration of Independence states.
Those words and the Constitution and its amendments that followed have served to bind us together like that flag into this sometimes imperfect, but still most desirable union.
That unity is being tested these days if you are following along on the anti-social media of your choice.
No matter if you are a Republican, a Democrat, something else or nothing at all, we seem to be surrounded by anger, hate and fear, when the vast majority of us just want to get along in our pursuit of that life, liberty and happiness.
It often seems that anyone with an opposing view is viewed with contempt, especially if separated by an electronic device.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” the First Amendment states.
But selfishness can get in the way and it’s easy for us to forget the amendment that gives one those rights, also gives those same rights to another.
None of the past 243 years has been easy. The founders had their own difficulties with fears, jealousies and sometimes hypocrisy. Our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness has been tainted by injustices toward native people, slavery, civil rights struggles and discrimination based on race, creed and gender.
But those divisions and injustices are not the memories we should dwell on this holiday or any day.
Instead we should remember that our differences and our continuing efforts to overcome them are worth celebrating.
The America that deserves our allegiance is generous, kind, respectful, just, fair, equal, welcoming, helpful and hopeful. We may not always live up to our own high standards, but we should always try.
Whether you celebrate as a community today or in your backyard, look at the people next to you or the people over that fence and remind yourself not of the differences among us but of how much we are alike. That is what binds us and makes us Americans.
Be careful you don’t lose sight of these ideals, lest you grown numb to them and lose them.