The Fifth of July

copyright Dan Lau 2010

On the Fourth of July, some people say “Happy Fourth of July.” Other people think they’re cute, and say “Happy birthday, America.” Yesterday, someone said “Happy Fourth of July. Thank God that we live in the United States, a democratic country, free of persecution.”

And it struck me. Most of the time, instead of talking about what America stands for on Independence Day, we talk about the American Revolution in very general terms, bless the troops, and then focus on alcohol, getting fat, swimming pools, and fireworks. That’s what the Fourth of July is about. A weekend to celebrate summer.

Is this what the US is really about? Eating too much food with our family and friends? It doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

I like my family. I like my friends. I like my food. Yesterday I spent some time with all three of them. But what if we, as the United States, really took our national ideals seriously? Historical realities aside, the US was built on the idea that everyone should be free and the government’s job was to make sure that everyone got to be free. If we were free from sickness and poverty, free to be immigrants and natives equally, free to make our own decisions and pursue our own happiness, what would that look like? And what would it look like to belong to a country where we all cared about each other’s freedom?

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