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The one thing the Fourth of July truly stands for

“A real patriot is the fellow who gets a parking ticket and rejoices that the system works.”

-- Bill Vaughn

It's the Fourth of July. And it’s a Sousa kind of day.  Bold, brash, loud, and ambitious.  A day to drive the streets playing “Stars and Stripes Forever” at full volume with the windows down.

The Fourth is the Fourth no matter what day of the week it falls on. This is not some designer holiday that can change its date to make a three day weekend.

Our Founding Fathers adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4th and we’ve not messed with history.  Well, there was 1779 when July 4th fell on a Sunday so someone decided it should be celebrated on July 5th, but we haven’t made that mistake since.  We may have thought about it, but we haven’t done it.  In the United States, every idea is on the table, even the bad ones.

It’s a day of parades in sweltering heat in many parts of the country, cold watermelon feeds, picnics with good friends and family, and, finally, thankfully, fireworks.

I admit I am one to duck out of attending the fireworks.  I know I’m not alone.  There is a group of us whose Fourth is happily complete without firecrackers. We are the ones who go to bed early or who don’t like mosquitos. My husband would have suggested we were also the ones who didn’t have a life.  

He may have had a point.  

Even when people are on vacation, the Fourth still stands out as the holiday in the holiday.  My friends have been sending me pictures of water—lakes, beaches, rivers—and happy family members.  Of course the types of events celebrating the Fourth are evolving. Salsa festivals appear around the picnics and now sausages of every nationality are being thrown on the grill to roast beside the hot dogs.

There will be one constant—we will have politics on our minds and will engage in, hopefully, civil discourse. We certainly won’t hold back. We’ve just had a major Supreme Court decision.  We are months away from a presidential election.  These are  events!

And the one thing the Fourth truly stands for is the right of the individual, from any walk of life and any occupation, to have a hand in the decisions of government. We don’t need to whisper our thoughts.  We can speak them aloud and without fear from reprisal other than from Uncle Jack or Aunt Lulu announcing they disagree.

With the American Revolution, we deliberately established a society where to be a citizen means a person has a voice in the government. This is a gift often not valued until it is taken away.

Our consensus hasn’t been perfect or easy.  We continually fight our own prejudices.  Just as the way we celebrate the Fourth progresses, so, too, does our sense of justice. Throughout our history, we have struggled to find the delicate balance between individual desire, community needs, and the rule of law.  

Given human nature, it is a wonder we have been successful at all.  

Instead, we have thrived.  

Come to think of it, I may rethink my stance on fireworks.  If that isn’t something to pop a few firecrackers over, I don’t know what is.

Cathy Maxwell is a former US Navy officer and New York Times best-selling author of over thirty Avon/HarperCollins romances. For more information on Maxwell and her books go to www.cathymaxwell.com.