Five Thoughts after Celebrating Independence Day

A few years ago I emerged from my July 4 hovel at home and started attending fireworks celebrations again. Sometimes I settle in with the crowds on the National Mall in Washington, DC; other times I crowd at the last minute with the groups that gather on one of the many surrounding hilltops. What strikes me again and again as I merge into and mingle with the crowds is how much the experience unifies us. Here are five related thoughts:

  1. There’s something very special about July 4 and Thanksgiving Day, national holidays where we all come together to celebrate the many blessings we have received. What other holidays take us so outside ourselves and into the larger whole of our national community?
  2. Among the most jovial and lively of the participants on July 4 are the new immigrant communities, at least as I infer from their many accents. They cheer the loudest. Many have come far from conditions of poverty and tyranny to know real freedom. I like this. They inspire me.
  3. Whatever anyone thinks of immigration reform, our immigrant community largely organizes its protests over its desire to work and contribute. I contrast this particularly with those (not all) countries of Europe or Japan, where either immigration is discouraged or significant roadblocks are placed on immigrant work. Such places lose out on the intellectual and even genetic gains from diversity and gain the social problems that derive from keeping the young restless. I also applaud our founding fathers, who ameliorated what will be a perpetual problem in any rich country by having the good sense to attach citizenship to birth in the country. I know it’s arbitrary, but it certainly avoids some of the multigenerational problems and bitterness I’ve seen elsewhere.
  4. Symbolism and celebration help define who we are. Give John Adams early credit when writing his wife, Abigail, that “the second day of July, 1776 [he was off by two days—for good reason]…will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival… it ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade…and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
  5. I’m one of the luckiest people ever to live in this time and place. Aren’t you?

2 Comments on “Five Thoughts after Celebrating Independence Day”

  1. Andy F says:

    Well said, Gene! Thanks.

  2. Nice piece. I wrote a not so nice piece criticizing the Catholic bishops on their fortnight for freedom, which seemed to be an attempt to steal the holiday for anything but liberty.

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