Today is part of a forty-eight hour national holiday that is actually supposed to be one day, Saturday. Who would make a two-day/one day national holiday and how? Nothing up my sleeves, ladies and gentlemen, this is just how we roll in this kinder, gentler land we love. I make comedy movies in my head (very small projector with itty-bitty take up reels) and I keep unspooling a short where Washington is trying to rally the troops at Christmas to cross the Delaware and surprise the Hessians at Trenton, and one or more of the farmers turned Revolutionaries says, 'dude! Tomorrow's Christmas and the day after is when the stores open early!'
Of course that's fantasy (some of the stores NEVER close on Christmas Day; both Santa and the Baby Jesus would be so proud) but a lot of us will spend a great deal of time today cooking raw meat over hot rocks, quaffing malt and barley beverages, or playing whiffle ball over on the equivalent of your hometown's Chelsea Parade (okay; not everybody) or perhaps learning the finer points of operating a sump pump to get the weather that's ended up in your basement to the nearest storm sewer.
All worthwhile endeavors, more or less, and I suspect, crabby people like me to the contrary, all of those who gave their lives in the course of the wars fought for, in and by this nation, would probably not have a problem flipping a burger, draining a cold glass or pitching an inning and letting it go at that. The bumper stickers note what those in the streets of Tehran have discovered for themselves, assisted by police cudgels, 'Freedom isn't Free'.
We who have always lived in this society and enjoyed all the protections our Constitution and Bill of Rights provide may sometimes take for granted what others elsewhere cannot, in their wildest fantasies, ever imagine. For generations, everyone, everywhere has wanted to come to America and be free. Newsflash: they still do. There's a reason why we have a Statue of Liberty in the New York Harbor and nobody else does and it doesn't have anything to do with who gave what to whom as a present.
Who we are and what we do are the envy of the world even when we sometimes do thoughtless, hateful and hurtful things. We are the most powerful nation on earth (and in the history of the world) and we are a rare and noble notion that we and we alone should determine who we are, where we live, how we worship and for whom we vote as leaders.
We are the United States of America, not because our cars are faster, our grocery shelves better stocked, our homes prettier, our armed forces more powerful, our hair bouncier, our teeth whiter or our clothes cleaner. We are the sum of all of that and ten thousand other things--the freedom to get up tomorrow morning and move across the street or across the country and never need anyone's permission. The right (some feel it's a duty) to think our elected leadership are cloth-eared clowns who are leading us to ruin (and have been since 1776, I guess).
We have more freedoms we never use than the rest of the world put together, made possible by everyone who has ever been an American ever since there's been an America to be from. George Bernard Shaw once noted "(p)atriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it." But I don't think we feel superior--I'm not always convinced we think at all. But if we did, and do, think, today might be a good day to think a little more about who we are and how we're going to pass what we have to our children, as our parents did for us.
We're a country whose Founders insisted our birthright included, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Not a lot of other places start out with 'fight for your right to party' as the major premise (with 'soda and pie' as, perhaps the minor premise). It may not make us 'better', only different-but at least for today, different is better and our better is better than your better. Whoever you are.