I love the Fourth of July—American flags hanging off front porches, fireworks lighting up the sky, family and friends getting together and drinking a little too much beer. It’s a uniquely American holiday, and I’m a uniquely American guy.
But sometimes I get the impression that the Fourth is a day of all talk and no walk. Sure we parade down the streets, pledge Allegiance, and sing “Proud to Be An American” four or five times throughout the course of the day—but what about when the day is over?
Don’t get me wrong, I love Lady Liberty. But all of the tacky decorations and annual gatherings don’t seem to amount to anything at the end of the day. When July 5th rolls around, politicians will resume slandering one another, civil rights will continue to be repressed, and discrimination will still lead to hate crimes from border to border.
It begs me to ask the question: what happens to our sense of patriotism after the Fourth has passed? Why is our national discourse so…coarse?
Quite frankly, we are all living in the Land of the Free together. I know world peace is a bit of a stretch, but truthfully I would be a much prouder American if we at least aimed for “country” peace, and not just on our nation’s birthday.
To make this happen, I’ve compiled five things that every American can and should do to ensure that our sense of domestic tranquility our forefathers wished for us shines throughout the other 364 days of the year (except perhaps our own birthdays, when we are naturally entitled to do anything we want):
1. Freedom of speech is a beautiful thing. Freedom of regret, not so much. So, I ask you to think before you speak…or blog. You’re never getting that tweet back.
2. Respect opposing views. One of the beautiful things about America is that we are free to believe and feel what we want. But if somebody doesn’t agree with you on matters of abortion or gay marriage, don’t verbally attack them right away, or challenge them to an arm wrestling contest (depending on which state you live in).
3. Foster our sense of brotherhood. Don’t forget that, despite our differences, we’re all Americans, from sea to shining sea. So let’s act like it. A simple act of courtesy or a compliment can go a long way for nurturing our American fraternité. Hold the door for a stranger or tell them they look nice (but asking them for their number may be going a little too far).
4. Take time to appreciate the small things. What do Facebook, delivery pizza, and Archie comics have in common? Besides summarizing thousands of teenage boys’ Friday nights, they are all things that originated in the backyards of Uncle Sam. It’s easy to take these things for granted, but appreciating what makes our fruited plains one of a kind can help us appreciate each other, even the strangest of family members.
5. Share your barbeque sauce. Or your book. Or your beach towel. Just…share. As Americans, we share the same land, so what’s the harm in lending a shirt once in a while (unless they’re a messy eater).
So let’s make a pact, right here, right now, Blood Brothers style. Let’s agree that our respect for this country will extend beyond the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and we will work towards making our homeland more peaceful and American.
Before you make a decision in a fit of rage or a moment of confusion, ask yourself: “What would Washington do?” But please, don’t flee to Valley Forge for every problem.
I know the fruited plain isn’t perfect, but let’s carry on our finger-licking barbeque-ed pride throughout the entire year and make every day the Fourth of July—minus all the beers.
My liver wouldn’t be able to handle that. Well, maybe just one. A Samual Adams, of course.