American holidays are becoming treacherous battlegrounds between the simple nostalgia of community and the political ignorance underlying the origins of each of them. The dilemma is simple:
Pros: The community comes together and celebrates it’s oneness.
Cons: The community is reminded we are an imperfect nation and we have done horrible things.
When you are done sifting the pan most of it is sugar coated marketing. And like most Americans, I am addicted to sugar. Resisting the temptation is hard enough on my own without someone running up and smacking the sugary concoction out of my hand and shaming me for enjoying it. That’s not how you convince me that over indulging in sugar is bad for me or for the community.
The problem with the shame game is when a person has this big important thing they want to share, they become angry firecrackers. They shoot high in the sky with a big boom. Heads may turn and sometimes it encourages a few more to do the same. It’s one way to make people aware…
But do you really need to set yourself on fire to send a message? Do you really need to be a walking-talking bomb? Must I hate everything as equally as strong as you, to convince you I see that things are not perfect?
The longer road is the harder road, because we don’t always see the results immediately. It requires us to trust the process.
But it is only progress when we make room at the table to hear and understand without shaming or condemning someone who is different than us.
It is our Differences that make Firework shows amazing
The most amazing fireworks show I ever saw was at Fort Ord, California. It was the last one before the base closed and became a college. It might have been extra memorable because we were saying goodbye and we had so many memories. The pyrotechnicians rose to the occasion and executed fireworks in the various recognizable shapes. I remember one was in the shape of a flag and another an eagle. I was in awe. I never knew fireworks could be such an art form and I haven’t seen its like since.
Over the years I have gone back n forth on loving and hating fireworks and 4th of July celebrations. For different reasons. It hurts my children’s ears. It scared the dog. Why bother celebrating when your spouse is deployed? It causes my husband to think he is in a war zone. It hurt to not be a part of the community. It was easy to be bitter and resentful. With each passing holiday a cruel reminder that we couldn’t celebrate like everyone else.
Then I realized something important.
You can either live bitter or you can focus on finding your joy.
I took a deep breath. At the time we adjusted the holidays to meet our needs. Choosing to use it as a reminder to spend more time together as a family. Luckily things changed. We look forward to the fireworks show more and more each year. We give each other space to enjoy it comfortably and on our own terms. Sometimes that means family members can chose to stay home and watch from afar while the rest of walk over to enjoy it a little closer.
So when I started to pay attention to how awful and imperfect our nation is, I thought long and hard about what these holidays mean to me. There are a few I skip because they are sugary promises from an era that is no longer relevant.
But 4th of July is one I’ll keep because it continues to be a beacon of hope.
It reminds us to look at how far we’ve come.
And how much more we have to go.
This nation’s imperfections and current dialogue scares me, but I love her and I still want so much for her. Let’s celebrate the life we have, whenever we have a chance to do so. Don’t let anyone keep you from your irreverent barbecues. Invite everyone to dance to the music only you can hear. But let’s also stay inspired. The fight for equality still stands. Let us use this day to renew our vision for a great nation.
However you decide to celebrate or take note of the day, when we get done loving on our country, I hope you remember to make room at the table for our fellow living-n-breathing Americans.