Happy birthday, U.S.A

FI-EditorialIt’s the Fourth of July, everyone. So, what better way to celebrate than with an essay about the meaning of patriotism?

Now stop groaning, you’re not back in school and you’re not going to have to write anything. In fact you’re not going to have to read much at all. But this is indeed the time of year when patriotism is in vogue through everything from fireworks to unique ways to get the Stars and Stripes on clothing to red, white and blue sprinkles on doughnuts. People feel patriotic and they want to show it.

And, why not? Part of patriotism is having fun with it. Being a patriot isn’t supposed to be a slog of recitation of dry facts about the likes of John Adams and Patrick Henry. It’s about showing pride in the country, celebrating our freedoms and, very importantly, enjoying them. It means that we can think this country is a beacon of hope for the entire world one day, is headed in the entirely wrong direction the next and then come up with an entirely new opinion for the day after that.

America is a land that prides itself on freedom of expression so let’s express ourselves whether it’s by wearing the Stars and Stripes as a three-piece suit on July 4 or by sitting home quietly and thinking this is a pretty darn nice place to live. It’s easy to take for granted the freedom that in America you get to think as you like and not have to be worried about repercussions if you’re either too patriotic, not patriotic enough or happily in that wide gulf of middle ground.

That means you can curse the Supreme Court one day for gutting the Voting Rights Act by sticking its fingers in its ears, closing its eyes and pretending that racism isn’t still a very real problem threatening the right the vote. And it means the next day you can celebrate the members of the court for recognizing that gays and lesbians have the right to be treated as human under the law and enjoy the same rights as every heterosexual person about to enter their third marriage.

None of this is a big revelation to Greenwich, and certainly the town does not need a lecture in patriotism. Greenwich has shown time and time again that it knows how to celebrate the flag, something that will be apparent this long weekend when the Fourth of July is marked. That’s why it was more than a little disappointing to see such a poor turnout for this year’s Salute to Veterans.

Maybe it was the threat of rain that never materialized. Maybe it was the earlier than usual 9 a.m. start time. Maybe people just had other things to do. But the lack of a turnout was noticeable and very surprising. The town has never had any kind of problem showing its eagerness to celebrate American ideals and thank our veterans, so what happened?

There’s no easy answer for that. And it’s also important to note that no one is taking attendance. Being patriotic doesn’t mean you absolutely positively have to show up for every patriotic event lest you be shunned as a non-believer. But this is a wonderful community event with an overwhelmingly positive message and it would have been nice to see a lot more people out for an event that historically had packed them in.

The good news is that there’s no doubt the Salute to Veterans will be back next year and likely better than ever, so people can mark their calendars now. The even better news is that this is a time to celebrate. Thank a veteran when you see him or her and then go barbecue an unhealthy amount of cow. You can do it and be happy about it. Be proud of who you are and be proud of being an American, not just this week but every week.

America is a wonderful place to live. That means people can love the collected musical works of Lee Greenwood and people can think Samuel Johnson had a pretty good look at the future when he declared “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

America gives us all that. Let’s be thankful for it and enjoy it.

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