Monday, July 14, 2014

The Glorious Fourth of July

Next year, lets plan for a truly Glorious Fourth? Raise funds
in advance, call every food-truck in the state, get every
business, every citizen involved. Next year, let's own the
Fourth of July.
Let me begin this post with a story. While studying abroad during my undergraduate degree I had the chance to travel to many older European cities and towns as a part of my studies. I had the opportunity to see the literal mechanics of what defined a city, why we had (and have) mayors, city limits, boulevards, and how that translates to the modern equivalent around the world today. Most people will never know that a city has a traditional form, a functional structure, that enables it to protect its citizens, even allow them to prosper and feel joy.

More important, one component of living in a city is glory. Glory in sense of nationalism, but on a city level. The same reason people say "America is the greatest country on Earth", would be translated down to the "best city on Earth" or in our case "town". Even today, ask a Parisian where is the greatest city, and they will shout "Paris". More importantly, burgomasters, or mayors, were not only entrusted with the safety of its people but in the leadership of ceremonies to encourage fellowship and citizenship pride through party, music, and sport (can we please bring back jousting?).

Interestingly, each burg, or town, competed against one another for the biggest and best celebrations, often held on dates of  national or religious significance. Much like building the tallest spire or clock tower to prove a town's greatness, a city's ability to celebrate was measured by how glorious it was. In essence, a town's greatness is measured by its own celebration to itself and its culture.

So you can imagine my problem to Liberty's recent historical attempts to reschedule national holidays because they feel they can't compete with other cities. My unique perspective would suggest that in a historical context, we wouldn't exactly be the most respected clan on the island. We would, most likely be, mitigated to a less than lovely historical footnote to greater civilizations. While you may trivialize my criticisms, unarguably we are writing our own history, right this moment.

In Liberty, even the date of Halloween (last in 2009) has been changed because of religious opposition. What power does the city hold, if it cannot even protect its own decisions against a few outspoken extremists. Yes, I said extremists, because most of us were just dandy with Halloween being on Sunday. Most of the nation was okay with it being on Sunday. While I completely respect any one's religious right to not participate, it is not okay to force an entire town into accommodating irrational supernatural beliefs that the devil lives in a Reese's Cup, and that consumption of chocolate will interfere with God's day. Most of us are good with God in the morning, and gluttony in the evening.

 Does anyone remember the movie Footloose? Are we that town? Where Ren McCormick stands before the city council who had banned dancing and music for similar reasons?

[addressing the town council, reading from the Bible]
"From the oldest of times, people danced for a number of reasons. They danced in prayer, or so that their crops would be plentiful, or so their hunt would be good, and to show their community spirit. And they danced to celebrate." And that is the dancing we're talking about. Aren't we told in Psalm 149 "Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song. Let them praise His name in the dance"? And it was King David - King David, who we read about in Samuel - and what did David do? What did David do?
[paging frantically through Bible]
What did David do? "David danced before the Lord with all his might. Leaping and dancing before the Lord."
[smacks table in front of Reverend Moore]
Leaping and dancing!

Ecclesiastes assures us that there is a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to laugh, and a time to weep. A time to mourn, and there is a time to dance. And there was a time for this law, but not anymore. See, this is our time to dance. It is our way of celebrating life. It's the way it was in the beginning. It's the way it's always been. It's the way it should be now.

So that brings us to the Fourth of July. I'm so grateful our town has a celebration; however, as you can imagine, the fact that we celebrate it on July 12th because we receive a half price discount, seems a tad bit underwhelming to me. Are we so comfortable as a city, that we've accepted our position of being a place of compromise? For the $12 trash fee I spend a month, I want glory... great, delicious, golden glory. I want to drain the town budget for the biggest and grandest fireworks we can afford. I want the fireworks to be so bright and high, that they can be seen in Raleigh. I want people in Greensboro to go "What the..." I want to stand on Liberty's football field, my arms out as I look to the sky and say, "I live here", while the sky ignites with rockets and while Lee Greenwood sings another annoying rendition of "God Bless the USA". I want to "dance".

In reality, we purchased our thirty minute firework show sans any music with coupon that gave us half off. I sat on the Liberty field next to a bizarre woman who wanted to place a saddle on my fifteen year old Labrador, while we tried to watch the fireworks which barely rose above the trees on the north end of the field. It was nice, it was lovely, but it wasn't a glorious Fourth.... it was just the 12th of July, because no one reached for that glory.

Imagine if soldiers of the Revolutionary war (why we celebrate the fourth) could witness our sober, lackluster celebration on the hill of Liberty Elementary. "Is this what we're fighting for?", they might ask. They fought for freedom, yet in Liberty, independence has the appearance of apathy.

I suppose the larger problem is that many Americans don't realize what we've risked in the past to become the Land of the Free. Many of us who have never been in the military have never had to fight for anything. In Liberty, we can't even drink to our independence, dance in our streets, or simply masquerade, but we paradoxically claim our entitled freedom to be better than others. To me, it's ungrateful and unpatriotic that we don't get half naked, drunk of our asses, and shoot off explosions, just to say, one last time, that it's great to be alive, great to be American.

But we don't, because we don't want to take the risk.

Our independence day shouldn't be a celebration from some country called England, it should be from ourselves, from that little voice inside our heads that says "God doesn't want you dance", "don't drink it's a sin", "I'm an adult, I have to act like one", "grown-ups don't dance", "I don't want to try something new, I'm happy with the way things are". The real Independence day, the one you'll dance for, perhaps even cry over, is when you stop listening to everyone else and how they think you should act, and truly become free. To live a life not influenced by others, to be an individual, to be, for a better lack of the words, independent....

...a rather ironic twist of fate for a town called Liberty, whose meaning is a state of being free.