As I listen to the non-stop booming cannon-like explosions, and sounds like gunfire echoing through the neighborhood in between whistling and sizzling firecrackers that pop-pop-pop or rat-a-tat-tat like machine guns, I cannot help but think how much these July 4 fireworks must resemble the sounds of terrifying warfare. The deafening explosions are probably not too different from the sounds of weaponry during battles from the American Revolution or the wars of today happening around the world right now.
How crazy it must seem to those under fire that we pay to buy these extremely loud explosives to celebrate our hard won freedom some 240 years ago, crushing the silence of a cool summer twilight after a day of cookouts and pleasant conversation. Notably, pets and backyard wildlife cringe and cower at the frightening and confusing sounds, too paralyzed in fear to forage for food or come out from under the bed.
Having spent so much time researching The War of Independence and the role of Marquis de Lafayette in preparation for the French Tall Ship Hermione’s port of call in less than one week, I cannot help but think about those battles fought and the hardships ordinary farmers and merchants experienced more than two centuries years ago, as I listen to this non stop barrage of harmless and colorful explosives on July 4th to honor and their efforts, injuries and deaths that resulted in the hard won victory and rights we celebrate today.
Many of the most famous American Revolutionary battles were lost and won just a few miles or less than two hours’ drive from here, which makes them much more real and dramatic to me than the mere pages of history books.
Having stood on those hallowed grounds and experienced re-enactments, and now hearing these celebratory explosions a backyard or two away, brings it all together in a way that allows my imagination to sweep away the centuries and how manner that makes imagining how it all appeared makes it all seem so much more real and not so long ago that The War of Independence took place.
And what my imagination can’t comprehend or picture, current conflicts and struggles, like Arab Spring, Syria’s street battles and executions in Palmyra, show in starkest terms what struggle and warfare truly is. These contemporary sufferings show all of us what it is to fight, die, flee and strive for freedom from oppression. It’s anything but an alien concept or abstract context of the long past when one can see it in real time.
With so many wars fought across continents going back hundreds of years, never mind the last 240, it’s no wonder we don’t really put ‘two and two’ (the battles) together when we celebrate or acknowledge these past heroics and inhumanities. Here in the Americas and New World, we had hostilities that go back to the mid 1500s when French and Spanish explorers vied for prominence and territory.
In the late 1500s Britain began to take an interest and soon began to colonize in the 1600s. New England suffered through brief but bloody wars from 1675 to 1748, followed by the French & Indian War, only to be dwarfed by the 8 years long, cataclysmic American Revolution. www.answers.com, www.celebrateboston.com, www.history.com
With all of this struggle, tension and bloodshed in just one corner of the world, the ghosts of all wars must wander their fields of death (and in the quietest moments that only warriors and survivors can know) wonder if anyone will remember decades or centuries onward the sacrifices they made or appreciate what took place.
Individually, we can only speak our own truth, but collectively, I do think we come together on July 4 to celebrate as a nation, on The National Mall or Boston’s Esplanade or St. Louis’s Forest Park or the small Midwestern town ball field, as testimony that we realize we are a blessed people in so many ways despite our faults and imperfections.
We acknowledge the ‘gift’ of simply being able to enjoy coming together with hundreds in our communities and millions nationwide, to relish the humble fruits of our daily labors shared with good friends. We come together in an amazing act of defiance to terrorists, especially in cities that know acts of terrorism. We come together to say that as a people we will savor this one day in peace and goodwill, with red, white and blue plates and napkins and bunting.
And in this fun and casual way we do remember the past and we acknowledge it in the most tangible way: the simple unified act of being together to celebrate at all. That despite the hardships and disappointments we face today, a spirit exists to carry us through. That same resilient spirit that convinced a young group of colonies with no formal army or navy to take on the world’s fiercest empire for eight long years. A spirit that continues to inspire.