Reasons to be happy on the Fourth of July

even while there are reasons to make you feel like you have a low-grade fever

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

The older you get the less birthdays mean. Except if you’re a country. Today, the Fourth of July, 2018, is our country’s 242nd birthday (if you count from 1776; if you count from the Declaration of Independence, it’s 241).

I think of the Fourth as a day to be happy for my country and for me to celebrate, to be thankful, to party. In Jefferson alone, the trek to see to say “Ahhh!” at the fireworks is so appealing to me – it is a tradition, a long-time event-of-record in a speck-on-the-map farm town whooping it up for the privilege of living in a free country.

Free country is such a big thing. We forget. We even forget to vote. Or we think voting is unimportant and that because we have freedom today we shall have it forever. Not true.

This last election is a reminder that we aren’t there yet but we are trying to make it so everyone can vote and speak the truth freely, so that election rules are not racist, so that our districts are not skewered into impossible shapes (well, that one’s not working too well); but we somehow always have citizens of courage and brains who encourage us and help us to live up to our ideals, to make us glad, to remind us that to maintain our freedom is not so difficult but it must be steady.

I’m a tad disconcerted by things going on – my grandson’s student loan debt; my daughter’s inability to find a house in the housing shortage of America; the forest fires in the western U.S. – so early this year for a country with no climate change; a pal telling me that if her daughter got cancer like the mother just had, the daughter would go bankrupt in six months; the fact that my Social Security hasn’t gone up in six years; and hearing rumors that some politicians still want to get rid of it or privatize it or something that will surely affect all the non-wealthy (the 99 percent of us).

There are other things that make me feel like I have a low-grade fever – lead in water pipes all over the country; lakes oozing algae into the Gulf; pot-holed cities and rusting bridges (I thought infrastructure was on the list, but so far that equates to one wall); little children separated from their parents; food and gasoline prices zooming—not just inching—up; and since the beginning of this remarkable country, we’ve had a thing about strangers coming in, immigrants just like us. I guess it’s human, but it’s also selfish, greedy and pathetic that humans are selfish, greedy and pathetic.

But I learn that towns in the hinterlands are friendly and do not waste their time arguing right and left politics; that primaries are being won by women of color and youth against incumbents who are not women, not of color, not young; that a young Dutch kid figured out how to gather and use the islands of plastic garbage floating in the Pacific; that book reading is up as are newspaper and magazine subscriptions; that there is a surge in poetry and art and new music; that more sustainable crops are being grown; that fewer pesticides are being used on our food crops which makes for an increasing availability of organic food.

And so I reread:

“The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America”
(now generally called the “Declaration of Independence”)
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

And so I gain hope.

We’ve been through wars, even a civil war of cousin against cousin, and we’ve had banks fail and crops fail and depressions that put nearly the entire country out of work. We’ve had good times and bad, and plenty of crooks and charlatans leading us astray. Even as the good guys have made the not-wealthy prosper, and they have kept us alive in an ideal of the spirit that has nothing to do with a religion.

Because we have the unique ideals of a peach of a Constitution supporting us in ways that are just as important as our unbelievable luck in being a country with natural wealth, it is no wonder that so many people across the globe have come here and that so many more long to come here to live and work hard
In freedom
With Liberty
And Justice
For all

What a plan. Thanks, forefathers . . . 242 (or 241) and counting.

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