It’s hard to be patriotic these days. Our own government seems to divide us on more issues to list, and there’s a constant urging to remind us that we are more of an international planet than we thought. So while on one hand we cherish our patriotic pride, on the other hand we relish the entire world and dine more on foreign cuisines than our own. (Not that anyone could survive solely on hotdogs and apple pie, although we seem to give it our best shot come summer.)
My family comes from Poland. My great grandparents came to America and settled either in Cleveland to work in the factories or in Pennsylvania to work in the coal mines. To this day, I still celebrate certain Polish holidays and treasure our traditions. But for all of the pierogi and oplatek, I never forget that I am more American than anything else. And there is no better time of the year to remind me than the Fourth of July, a holiday that rings as loud in my heart as the fireworks do in my ears.
I will never claim to be a political wizard or even attempt to understand the government that controls our nation, but I would be remiss if I didn’t appreciate just a little the freedoms that we have on my favorite holiday. If you have ever had the opportunity to meet and converse with people from other countries, you might be as surprised as I that the things we do and consider to be so normal are simple demonstrations of the freedom that we have and that we continue to fight for.
Consider the average Fourth of July holiday. It is usually kicked off by a parade, where children, adults, and often livestock, walk, drive, ride and dance down the main street of a town. Hundreds of people line the streets, cheering and collecting candy (including our favorite, Tootsie Rolls,) and never once stop and imagine that in some countries of the world, this could never happen. We prop up our lawn chairs and wave at the stars of the parade and have a feeling of security and pride and our biggest concern is getting nailed in the head with a piece of hard candy.
And then there’s the traditional cookout, with tables overflowing with summer salads and baked beans (a dish that we credit to our Native Americans,) and grills overflowing with hamburgers and hotdogs and even veggie burgers. Not only do we have the ability to feed ourselves in gluttonous ways, but we also have the luxury of eating any meat we want, or choosing not to eat meat at all.
Our paper plates are nearly as full as our bellies when we’re finished, giving us a great reason to plop our ample selves down on the ground to stare up at the skies and await the greatest show not on Earth. With the night ablaze in fireworks, I lose myself like a child in a candy store, oohing and ahhing and forget that this magnificent display of color and light is meant to be a reminder of the celebrations the ensued with our very first taste of freedom, hundreds of years ago.
Personally, there is one thing for me that immediately snaps me back to reality and refreshes my mind of the things I learned in history class and the lack of freedoms that I see when I watch media coverage of other nations across this planet. Our national anthem, especially with a resounding drum roll at the beginning, is enough to get my mind rolling, my heart pounding, and I admit that at times it takes all I have not to pause and fight back tears of amazement of what a country in which I have the great fortune to live.