I quizzed a few kids about the connection between July 4th and why we blow stuff up. Not a single one mentioned anything about the symbolism of war and the cost of freedom. (One did complain about the cost of bottle rockets.) The significance to them was that after a long year of being told to wear a bike helmet and wash your hands and don’t run with the scissors, their parents handed them a wad of cash to go buy an armful of their favorite explosives.
That’s okay. Historically, July 4th is pretty squishy as a significant date. Independence was actually declared on July 2, 1776. No one signed it until a month later. It was printed on the 4th, so it was dated the 4th, but that’s about it for claim-to-fame. When John Adams predicted a “great anniversary Festival…with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more,” he was actually referring to July 2. Indeed, in the very same letter he expresses his regret that we hadn’t “mastered Quebec and been in possession of Canada.” Easy, John.
Some say Jesus was actually born in the spring, so Christmas should be on Easter. And we’ve already moved Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays to an easier-to-party-on date. My friends agreed just last night that Halloween should always fall on a Friday. So July 4th can be a holiday just because we say so. You take a party where you can find one.
During the amazing, blazing fireworks display at Rosenblatt Stadium, where the Omaha World-Herald set fire to $40,000, I pondered the significance of the event. I watched a teenage boy light noisy rockets while his friends and family huddled so closely around every launch that I feared the next missile wouldn’t clear their foreheads. This punk with a punk sat with his legs astride his projectile, slumped so that his nose nearly touched it, and I imagined the rocket snagging his shorts on its way up, carrying his screaming seeds of freedom to be scattered across our fertile county.
After every thunderous explosion I expect it to rain fingers. But things work out okay, every year, and the next morning’s newspaper inevitably reports just one or two people who can now only count to seven.
The weather was flawless, the fireworks spectacular, the friends hilarious, the wine intoxicating. I indeed felt very liberated, and relented to the idea that if a fourteen-year-old wants to spend his mom’s money to blow off his own testicles—well, it’s a free country. ❦