The following article by David Strange originally appeared in The Courier-Journal on 4 Jul 2012. It is archived here with additional information for your reading enjoyment.
You hear a lot of grumbling about "the government" in our country. Heck, on occasion you might hear it from me.
It sometimes seems to be the American pastime.
And there is certainly much to complain about.
But you'll seldom hear anything bad said about "America." Especially on the Fourth of July.
For all the fears, anger, and outright disgust about how America is run, there still remains great pride in, and reverent love for, our great land of promise and fulfillment; of freedom and respect; of God and Country.
So allow me to wax patriotic this time, on this day of our nation's birth.
America. Independence Day. The Fourth of July. Say those words and the head still rises a bit and the body straightens. The heart can't help but swell a little with pride.
Memories and celebration are strong here. Flags and fireworks are mentioned in our local newspapers on the Fourth of July as far back as there are papers. There were fireworks displays and parades in the county in the 1790's and the 1890's.
I, myself, fondly remember annual family events during my childhood with sparklers and firecrackers and picnics and lots of red, white, and blue. As many people do, I still like to decorate my house for the holiday.
I remember in the 1980's there were free fireworks shows at the county fairgrounds. I remember those shows as a comfortable summer evening of families and children. It was an all volunteer event, as I remember it, with every-day citizens raising money for the fireworks, and volunteer firefighters helping shoot them off. It would sometimes get a little comical when things didn't exactly go as planned, and occasionally it would even get dangerous with a misfired rocket. But everyone did their best. Despite the generosity of several good people, there wasn't enough money to afford many "big booms," so the fireworks would be spaced out, seemingly five or ten minutes apart. The thing I remember most proudly, though, as a common American, was that there were no government mandates needed to mark our nation's founding. No requirement that we show up and parade for the government. Americans, everyday American citizens, simply came out and did it.
And today that volunteer spirit has blossomed into the fantastic "Bullitt Blast" at Paroquet Springs Conference Center in Shepherdsville, with vivid and lavish fireworks that thousands of people enjoy every year free of charge, and of which its producers can be rightly proud.
And seemingly in every yard, every home, no matter how humble, there will be at least a small flag, a sparkler, or a firecracker or two.
America celebrates another birthday.
Despite all her faults, the flag of America still stands tall in our minds, our hearts, and our homes. America remains one of the few countries on earth where regular people place the flag all around our homes and communities "just because we want to." Just because it seems important to do so.
The flag still means so much to most of us.
I still see grown men swell up at the sight of her, memories welling up in their eyes. The flag, and America itself, might be abused and misused along the way, but it is still The Flag. Still America. The one land to which everyone else wants to come. The one land in which we might rightly complain about, and protest about, but never, ever, seriously consider leaving.
Winston Churchill once famously said in a speech in America, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried."
It often seems our people do everything they can to prove Churchill right about the "worst form" part, but we still survive, still strive to do good, and still rightly hold our heads up for the effort.
Flags come out as they always have on the Fourth of July. Sometimes in pride, sometimes in reverence; sometimes with a mix of frustration and worry about where we are going. But always with respect for where we have been and where we want to be. Many flaws, many errors, many sins have been done in the name of our flag. Much like any one of us with our own lives and families. But, again like each one of us, with a strong heart and a hope for the future, we move forward with grand expectation.
America the Beautiful.
Independent and free.
Happy Fourth of July everyone!
Light a firecracker for me!
Copyright 2012 by David Strange, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.