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  • Writer's pictureMichael Sherer

The Fifth of July

Ah, blessed silence. The day after our celebration of the founding of this country through the signatures affixed to our Declaration of Independence, at an hour in which the world outside the window would normally bustle with the humdrum of everyday life, it is as quiet as Christmas morning, almost.

The usual dull roar of I-405 across the lake sounding like far-off roiling surf is muted to a whisper. A crow caws in a nearby tree, answered by one a neighborhood away. A few songbirds whistle their tunes, most already napping after early breakfast outings in search of insects and worms.

All else is hushed, as if we have not yet awakened from slumber to a collective hangover from blowing shit up until 2:00 a.m. just because we have a couple more mortars and M-80s we forgot to light. From consuming too many cows, pigs, chickens and their accompaniments of potatoes, tomatoes, apples and berries in so many iterations and variations on theme of what constitutes a proper July 4th barbecue, picnic, cookout, burgoo, clambake, bash, shindig, hoedown and rave-up. From washing it all down with so many alcoholic beverages that we now groan with the massive headache of knowing we imbibed too much, celebrated too hard, threw restraint, moderation and self-discipline to the wind much as we did the rockets into the night sky.

Now comes the self-reflection in the morning silence. What were we celebrating? Why did we traumatize infants, young children and animals of every stripe with the bombastic roar of music and overly loud conversations, the boom and bang of enough gunpowder to start, and perhaps finish, a small war? Why did we irritate the old trying to sleep and the neighbor trying to keep his house and belongings from being torched by the idiocy of our drunken revelry while brandishing fire and deadly weapons of pyrotechnics?

Is July 4th just another excuse for a party like Cinco de Mayo or Halloween or Labor Day? Has it become just another federally mandated day off work? Or do we remember all the reasons the founders signed that piece of paper now enshrined in the National Archives, the principles for which they and so many were willing to sacrifice their lives in the coming days and weeks and years?

Has it become a day now denigrated for the hypocrisy of some who signed it because they enslaved one of every eight citizens in this new country? Or is it celebrated as an ideal to which we still try to achieve? A beacon of freedom to millions in other lands? A recognition that we can always do better, and that a democracy is, after all, a practice in and striving for social equality.

If we don’t embrace the latter, if we don’t teach our children the lasting values of democracy and the principles set forth in that signatory document, then we deserve the hangover many now feel. If, however, we continually strive for the goals those men envisioned so long ago, then perhaps there’s hope that more will wake up on July 5th as I did, clear-headed, reflective, and in awe not only of the natural surroundings when the volume of our man-made hum is lowered, but of this country and its potential.

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