About Me

My photo
Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Monday, July 4, 2011

4th of July

Photo by Andy Wilkes, 2008
As I type this post it sounds like bombs are exploding all over the city, the noise blossoming up and out, followed by spurts of crackling, fits of shots, and a shrill whistling that sounds like a balloon releasing its last breath under pressure, through a taut rubber opening. Fortunately all of the commotion outside is the city celebrating the 4th of July, and not the beginning of yet another war. My family had friends over for supper this evening, and after they left we did not feel like getting in the car and pushing through crowds to get to an official fireworks destination, so we decided to take a long walk through our neighbourhood and enjoy the small street celebrations that families all over the country were putting on this evening.

It is a hot, still summer night. The street lamps are glowing beneath the almost continuous canopy of oaks that dominate my neighbourhood, illuminating the full leafy constellation above our heads. Many people, wanting some peace and quiet to set off street fireworks with their children, have parked their cars across the street, blocking off traffic. A rare night of pedestrians, cyclists, and clusters of adults and children holding glow sticks and sparklers, standing in semi-circles around fountains of bright pink, green, red and blue sparks shooting up into the air -- some spinning, others releasing the high-pitched whining whistle, and others sending off erratic sparks in different directions like fireflies lighting up in swarms that slowly move across the darkness. Laughter and chatter fill the air. Some teenagers are sitting along the pavement sending text messages while their younger siblings draw pictures in the air with light. Parents kick back with cool bottles of beer that clink as we walk by. Groups of 20 somethings slide by on their beach cruisers. Blossoming trees are lit up as another fit of sparks explodes into the night. Windows are lit up with warm light. Lush foliage surrounding houses lights up momentarily and then falls into darkness. Roses are silhouetted against front porch lights. A pale yellow sickle moon hangs lopsided just above the rooftops. In front of us our shadows merge and separate, stretching out fluid along the cracked pavement ahead. Children yelp and shout with excitement, their voices rising and falling as we turn a corner and encounter another cluster, lawn chairs on the pavement, faces lit up brighter and brighter until the firework is spent. Scuffling and fiddling follows, and then another firework is lit and children scurry back, ushered by their parents, to stand or squat a safe distance away and watch, eyes wide and alert.

This morning when we woke up every house on the block had an American flag blooming out of its front lawn. There was nothing there last night, so someone must have come during the night and planted them there, feeling strongly that our entire street must come together in this unified show of patriotism. It is the first time I have ever had an American flag anywhere on my property. Standing on the pavement earlier today, I looked down the street and saw the miniature red, white and blues waving proudly in the breeze, and thought about the various dates throughout the year that people all over the world celebrate some form of independence. In a sense it is a universally shared aspiration, although it may mean something very different in diverse parts of the world. It probably means something very different to each individual as well. Having been raised in the Mediterranean, I have only celebrated a handful of 4th of Julys in my lifetime, and I had never, until tonight, really contemplated what we are celebrating. The right to self-government. I think about how many people do not have the right to determine how they live their lives. What religion they will follow. Whether they will go to school or work.

As the fireworks go off all around me, I am thinking about all those people in the world who are not free. Who are being persecuted for the colour of their skin, the language they happen to have been born speaking, or the belief system they follow. The 4th of July is a celebration of national independence, but it is also a reminder that each of us has a responsibility to continue speaking out against any form of injustice and the withholding of personal freedoms, so that some day everyone can enjoy an equal degree of freedom. Because really, if there is even one person who cannot claim independence, are any of us really independent?

Happy 4th of July, friends! While you are celebrating, why not take a minute to reflect on what independence really means to you? How does your country celebrate it? How do you personally celebrate independence in your everyday life? And how can you support others around the world who are still fighting for it?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent Article/blog.

    Thank you for using my Picture !

    My Photo Blog here : http://insidelondon2012.blogspot.com/