Happy Fourth Of July: The Freedom to Write, The Freedom to Love

For me, as a kid growing up on the China Lake Naval Weapons Center in the middle of the Mojave desert, the fourth of July was exciting.

LEF_options2For a Navy base, it was more about the scientists than the sailors, and having that many professional bomb builders in such confined quarters made the annual fireworks set off on the dry lakebed across the street from our house a thing to behold.

I can still feel the sting of heated metal as I clutched the remains of my sparkler in my hand and sat riveted by the scope and magnificence of the display. The smell of punk fragrant under the acrid tang of gunpowder that wafted in the warm desert air.

The fourth of July may have been the day we lit up the night sky, but it was always “Independence Day” we celebrated.

I grew up on tales of the revolutionary war, a plot as epic and unlikely as any scenario dreamed up by Hollywood. Mad Kings, reluctant heroes, traitors, martyrs. Deprivation and frostbite. Guerrilla warfare. Good vs. Evil.

Okay that last bit was through the filter of an eight year old, but when you dig deeper and read Thomas Jefferson’s tracts on religion, or explore the Federalist papers you begin to understand how unlikely and precious a gift we’ve been given – one that we seem to be treating like a broken toy best shoved to the back of our federal closet.

So for me, the 4th of July is the day I celebrate Independence Day, but apparently I’m in the minority: You know that thing that the religious right and the political puppet theater we call the Tea Party use to rub their minority view of governance in the face of the majority – the pledge of allegiance? I wonder if any of them actually listen to what they’re pledging.

I think the fact that some politicians added “under God” during the red scare of communism in the fifties short circuited their brains to the unaltered intent.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Wow. Wouldn’t they be shocked to realize they are affirming the rights of the very citizens they’re trying to grind out under heel?

But Independence day just doesn’t have the same commercial ring as 4th of July does.

It’s a little wordy.

A little too weighted in importance.

Little wonder we think Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico’s independence instead of its victory in a minor skirmish with the French.  (Hey! Let’s break out the Bud & BBQ vs the Corona & Guac!)

It’s harder to equate the birth of a nation with dealerships sporting elephants wearing red, white, and blue top hats to sell their cars.

Or mattresses.

Or as a festival to ward off retail doldrums by proclaiming “Christmas in July”.

(Btw – full disclosure: two of my publishers have sales going on in July – so if you want to buy my stories on sale have I got a gift for you….)

Trust me, I love a deal. If I needed a car, a mattress, a book (did I mention that The Next by Rafe Haze is on sale too?) then I’d be thrilled to celebrate all the money I’d be saving over the long holiday weekend, and I won’t begrudge you any softening of the hit your wallet might be taking, but today I’d prefer to celebrate another way.

Today I’d like to raise a beer to our Independence.

So here’s to us – The United States of America.

We are a nation birthed from ideals formed through necessity, washed in the blood of citizens both common and elite who suffered together, fought together, dreamed of something better together, in the face of impossible odds.

We are a country formed of many people, from many nations, looking for refuge from economic, religious, and political persecution.

Too bad we’ve turned our back on the very principals that they suffered for.  Hobby Lobby anyone? Way to roll back progress.

But that’s just sour grapes talking. After all, back when our nation was born I didn’t count as a person then, either.

Apparently retro is the new black at the Supreme Court.

Let’s clink our bottles together instead and celebrate our families and friends and the communities that feed and inspire us. The words that challenge and comfort us. The beauty of the natural world that our country still has in abundance. The leaders who can still dream.

And a special toast to the county clerks across the land who, in the very best tradition of our rebellious past, have risen above partisan politics and prejudice to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of their own bosses.

In doing so, these men and women – these true patriots – have fanned the flames of justice that sweeps across this nation today. Not even the supremes can provide cover for the institutional bigotry of our statehouses, much to the profound regret of some.

Equal protection under the law – if you can’t celebrate anything else, let’s celebrate that.

Happy Independence Day.

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