Happy Fourth of July All!
The day is sure to be replete with lots sizzling fireworks not to mention those sizzling scents from the grill—be it steaks, hamburgers and hot dogs or veggie burgers, corn, and asparagus. This is a day for celebration. And while hopefully no bombs will be bursting in air, including in Iraq, it’s always nice to witness those Chrysanthemums, Comets, Beehives, Dragon Eggs and Dahlias, shower overhead while we extoll those collective Ooohs and Aaahs.
But is that it? Is that all there is?
Is it merely a time to reflect upon the trials and tribs from the past our founders faced that eventually won us our freedom from domination and rule? Does it merely mean the day we became a new nation, which is now undeniably one of the most powerful nations of the times? Do we return to normal the next day, some with hangovers, and just carry on as before? Or is there something different, something, new, something yet discovered?
If not, should it become just that? As such, I pose the question: What does Independence Day mean now? Or rather, what should Independence Day mean now?
I can’t answer that for you. I can only answer that for me. The Fourth of July has always been a bitter-sweet time of year for me. My cousin who died from a brain tumor at age 13 on MLK Day was born on the fourth of July. My birthday followed a few days later. As children we often celebrated our birthdays together. When she died, a part of me died too. Almost as if I had lost a twin. The joint celebrations no longer existed.
Fourth of July became a time of reflection for me. Remembrance. But now that I am older and hopefully wiser and more astute not to mention attune, I tend to view Independence Day as not only a time for celebration and reflection upon the past but also one of hope and faith and trust that new days, new ideas, new adventures loom ahead. I tend to see Independence Day as just that—freedom from the chains and bondage of the past and a slate wiped clean, blank, open, and destined to be anything I wish to make it.
So my wish for all is that this Independence Day you celebrate, remember, and cherish the past but that you wake up tomorrow viewing the world anew with fresh hopes, eyes, dreams and endless possibilities. My wish is that July Fourth is the day you let go of all the anger, fears, disappointments and even failures and recharge your batteries, redraw your plans and realize that impossibilities are nothing more than yet unreached probabilities and realities.
For me, that is the lesson l grasp and celebrate on July fourth. Our founding fathers (and mothers) set out to reach what seemed the impossible quest—not only independence but self-sufficiency and the creation of a new nation that would live by a new code and set of rules. My cousin, who lived but a short life, lived one much fuller than many. She taught me to face fear with courage, pain with compassion, uncertainty with unwavering faith, and most of all to face loss, and, yes, death, not with bitterness but with gratitude for the time, experiences, and legacy one creates. Not bad for a 13-year-old kid.
It has been decades since her death, four to be exact. She would be 53 today. And yet she has lived on through the memories she created, the grace with which she lived, and most of all due to the hope she instilled for me and for others. She was fearless. Her motto was never retreat (apropos don’t you think based upon her day of birth?)—always honor and cherish the past, ones heritage, the trials and tribulations faced to accomplish change, but most of all always look to the present as a clean slate, a new beginning and day…a chance to write your story however you desire.
So Happy Independence Day All! Celebrate today and each and every day of your lives. That to me is what Independence Day is all about!