Ritual trumping respect on July 4

Multi-colored explosions light up the night sky, people huddle around a blazing fire to cook their food and friends embrace each other, glad to be alive. Sound familiar? It should. It happened on July 4, 1776. Somehow, though, our meaning of Independence Day and the images it brings about have travelled far away from what they used to be to Americans over two centuries ago.

Our forefathers gave their lives to secure freedom for everyone in America, no small feat, and yet today it seems we have forgotten what we are supposed to be celebrating. The notes of our national anthem ring deaf in our ears and the words have become meaningless.

Today, Independence Day means cookouts, baseball games and fireworks. It's a good thing that our nation's founders didn't know that we'd take their greatest achievement and turn it into an all-day barbecue; they might have rolled up their flags and surrendered right there on the spot. I highly doubt if old George Washington would have even stuck around if he knew that a national paid holiday was what was at stake.

I admit that the first thing to cross my mind on the morning of the Fourth of July was a charbroiled hamburger with all of the fixings. I think that most of us have been trained to focus on pleasures like food and fireworks over a moment or two of reflection on the feats of our ancestors. We put off thinking about how our soldiers had to brave the perils of war and the fear of death to get us where we are today; but when are we going to give some time to consider this if not on the Fourth of July? When are we going to, as a nation, revive our patriotism? After we've lost our freedom? Apathy, like the kind which exists today, toward our own nation and our freedom could end in tragedy. We should be grateful for the kind of life which can be attained in America; even if we don't give it a thought daily, shouldn't we attempt to do so on our country's birthday?

Some people say they evade the celebration of Christmas because they don't believe in religion. Others say they don't celebrate Valentine's Day because they don't have a lover. So what is the excuse for not honoring our country or those who fought for it on Independence Day? After all, we're ALL Americans and members of this country!

I sat down on the night of the Fourth of July and thought all this over as my friends raced outside to enjoy the fireworks. I thought about what my country means to me, how happy I am to be here and then I gave a silent moment to remember the countless soldiers who created this country where I am proud to say I live. The National Anthem began to play through my head, just the way I used to hear it at all the baseball games over the loudspeakers. For maybe the first time I not only thought out the words but I felt their meaning. When it was over, for just a second, I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. I think we all have that kind of American pride. We just need to let it show once in a while.

Denise Frank is a columnist for the Summer Wildcat and an English Senior.

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