Independence Day means something different to everyone, always has, always will. To some it’s a time to celebrate the birth of the country we love, for others it’s a time to acknowledge the many imperfections of our union.
For many it is little more than a picnic day with family or an excuse to get day drunk and blow stuff up. For me, it has always been a day to think about people like my Grandfather or Dad who fought to keep our freedoms in place, and to try to bring freedom to those who didn’t have it.
Today, we have a different situation. In our 244 years of history as a free nation, we have had events or special circumstances that have eroded our freedoms for a fleeting moment and understanding that pulling together to get through it was something we all got behind.
This is the time of year that has always been Baseball time. The final ramp up prior to the sports abyss that is the All-Star Break. Talk show hosts openly complained that there was nothing to talk about in the sports world. Writers took the opportunity to write more long form pieces about individual players or off-field examples of charity and community outreach.
Special uniforms with stars and stripes built into our favorite team’s logo, and accents of patriotism show up in socks, gloves and every piece of customizable gear. Buntings appear in home ball parks and team colors are replaced in the crowd with Red, White and Blue as fans celebrate America while they appreciate the casual enjoyment of sport afforded by the freedoms we enjoy.
None of this is gone, not forever anyway. It feels that way sometimes but as much as this country leaves to desire at times, its important to remember the very freedom to acknowledge everything isn’t perfect is not enjoyed by every country in the world. We often see things in extremes. For instance, saying you want to see some changes here in America doesn’t mean you think North Korea is the way to go.
This Independence Day, perhaps it should be pointed out, we are celebrating the day America declared our independence. The fight was yet to come. Loyalists to the crown didn’t support the declaration and the likelihood of beating back the world’s most accomplished military force wasn’t exactly a likely outcome.
It sparked a culture in this country, one that used to understand always improving but never perfecting was the hallmark of America. The beauty in that is simple, there is never a time when everything is set in stone because we built change into our very fiber.
You may not like where we are right now, but it’s hard to say it isn’t a better country than it was 30 years ago, 50 years ago. We learn, and we change. We adapt and we grow, but we never stop trying.
I was born in the 70’s but did the bulk of my growing up in the 80’s. What has transpired in this country during my lifetime is simply astounding. We’ve gone from knowing gay people existed to seeing them stand up and proudly announce they were here and tired of living in the shadows. Fighting for equal rights to marry and adopt, and very recently win the ruling that employers can no longer fire a person for living their lives. Is it perfect? No, surely not, but we have made steady progress and simply because all these wins weren’t like flipping a switch certainly doesn’t mean they aren’t worth celebrating.
Change is not overnight, and it never has been. Try to make change too quickly and it leads to rebellion. Sometimes that is exactly what needs to happen, and we fought a bloody Civil War for that simple reason. Ending slavery was something that nobody could slow roll into, it was either yes or no. A lesson learned as the country expanded and trying to straddle the fence wasn’t working anymore.
When you have this many people, from this many cultures, spread out over this much territory, baby steps are going to be part or the equation. If you told that 80’s kid that forty years later black people would feel unequal, I doubt I’d have believed you. My favorite movie was Coming to America, I watched black players and considered them heroes, TV shows like The Jeffersons were openly knocking down stereotypes and showing a sheltered white America that problems were the same for all of us. As a child you tend to think most people see things the way you do, as you get older you realize that’s not the case.
This time has forced us to sit back sans the distractions we enjoy and open our eyes to some of the changes we need to make. That doesn’t mean we all agree, honestly if you’re waiting for that I’d suggest you won’t find a time in history, in any country where that’s the case. But change can and will happen, surely not fast enough for everyone, but maybe, just maybe, that’s what helps it stick. When you climb a mountain, you secure every step before taking the next. This philosophy doesn’t make it fast, but it makes completing the climb far more probable.
This year we won’t have baseball on Independence Day, but we have an opportunity to show we can handle the responsibility that comes with that freedom. We can all come together, protect each other and in unity talk about change that we all can see is needed in our Nation. To pretend this has been one nearly 250-year-old failed experiment is to ignore the generational change that has taken place through our history. The will of the people is still powerful. Look to our past and remind yourself that LBJ the president who signed and pushed forward the Civil Rights Act was himself a documented outspoken racist. That doesn’t make it ok he said and did some of the things he did, but it shows that when the country wants change, the President is little more than a figurehead.
We have more in us as Americans, and we will come out of this stronger and more equal than before. I know this because that’s exactly what we have done time and again.
Happy Independence Day to everyone may you find a way to celebrate it in whatever way it makes you proud to live in this crazy, evolving, beautiful land we call home.