I've been fighting a blazing head cold all weekend, which scuttled our travel plans and made it hard to truly enjoy the real spirit of this holiday. But watching the vicarious celebrations hosted on CBS and NBC last night helped bring a few thoughts into focus.
First, who were these people?? I recognized (nor cared about) not one single "celebrity" that performed on the CBS Macy's celebration. Not one. They do this to me with the Thanksgiving Day Parade, too. In fact, the only recognizable part of the entire hour was during the fireworks when I could at least identify the composers and, for two songs, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Next came the Boston Pops celebration on the Esplanade. Now, follow me here: The event is sponsored by the Pops, right? So you would expect to hear a lot of music performed by the Pops, right? So how is it that we get injected into the middle of the 1812 Overture when the show begins (waiting until just about the time the guns are fired off across the river)? Then we get to listen to them provide backup for Toby Keith for a couple of songs, plus the sing-along.
Even funnier: with an orchestra sitting right there in the amphitheater, they have to use a soundtrack during the fireworks. Television at its laziest.
Oh, well... I don't much like Keith Lockhart anyway.
At least they had Craig Ferguson to host this one. Recent attempts to highlight certain celebs have proven to be downright painful. Dr. and Mrs. Phil, for example. That was an embarrassing nightmare. The word "vapid" just kept scrolling across my mind all night like a Times Square marquee with only one message.
Compare and contrast with our local community Patriotic Concert that was held last weekend. We do this every year. There's a town council, of sorts, that sponsors several events every year for the 4th. The Patriotic Concert is our kick-off event. We throw together a small (but mighty!) choir from the community to perform between 30 to 45 minutes' worth of patriotic tunes. The highlight is our Salute to the Armed Forces, which takes us through the hymns for all five services (don't forget the Coasties!), and gives us a chance to clap and whistle for the folks who stand to be recognized during the song. We have a color guard composed of either local Marines or Boy Scouts, depending on who's available. We also get to sit and listen to several speeches from the committee. These range from begging for more funds so we don't have to cancel events (last year it was nearly the fireworks; this year the parade got deep-sixed) to presenting our senior Mr. and Mrs. Anaheim Hills and our citizen of the year. Scholarships are handed out. And we get introduced to the current Miss Anaheim Hills, who has been practicing the Rose Queen Wave. Finally, a speech from our representative on the Anaheim City Council, Bob Hernandez, who never fails to give us a terrific speech (in both substance and length of time) reminding us all that this country is a gift of providence, and we need to keep ourselves grounded in religious principles if we are to succeed as a nation.
We follow all this with a good old fashioned Ice Cream Social so we have a chance to rub elbows with members of the community.
Being of a more-or-less old fashioned bent myself, I much prefer our local celebrations to the national ones.
It's funny, really. It seems to be easier to feel patriotism at the local level than it might be at the national level. I suspect it's at least in part because we feel more connected to our community than we do the nation as a whole. Is there anything I can really do about the rest of the nation directly? Not generally. But I can make a difference here locally by participating and striving to make it a good place to live. That's all that's really required of us who claim citizenship in the United States.
Some of us, of course, have gifts for participating at higher levels. Those who feel they can will try to make a difference at a county, state, or national level. (As an aside, I did get one chuckle this weekend: One pundit in Great Britain, writing for the Globe, I think, and having solved all their own problems, wondered what in heck we were doing over here with such a "gifted" president. His word, not mine. We seem as a nation to be wasting the poor chap, according to this writer. My advice for him would be: look to the source of the trouble. It wasn't G. W. Bush.)
One thing I've noticed over the past several years: perhaps it's really been the result of my blogging for the past six years or so, but I've noticed that "patriotism" as a concept is getting more of a bum rap than it used to. There are many people throughout this country, it seems, who really can't stand those who feel a sense of patriotism for this nation. They even claim to be offended by something as simple as the Pledge of Allegiance, as if we were asking them to indenture themselves to some terrible tyrant, rather than remind themselves of the very principles of freedom that allow them to think and act for themselves as no other nation on earth will allow.
These are people who, I believe, confuse patriotism with politics, and can't see past the abuses or excesses of any given administration, thus allowing themselves to feel embarrassed or ashamed to be an American.
I don't know about them, but my patriotism is not constrained by my feelings about the evils of the current administration.
The 4th of July is, for me, a nearly sacred holiday. If Christmas is sacred because it celebrates the birth of the Son of God, July 4th is sacred to me because it celebrates the birth of a nation conceived by men who understood that God's law, to which they referred as natural law, should be our ultimate authority. It is God's law alone that can truly liberate a people. The Founders understood this, and those who have been great leaders in this country through the ensuing years have also understood this principle. When our leaders are righteous, the nation prospers. When our leaders are self-absorbed demigods, we suffer accordingly. The correlation is fairly striking.
Patriotism is not truly dying in this country. It may be taking a beating. It may even have become a hiss and a byword among certain sectors of society. Yet it will live on so long as those of us who still remember the higher purposes of this republic refuse to let it go.
God bless this land.
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