July 5th, aka "The Day After"

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index


It’s difficult to describe July 5th as anything other than America’s shared hangover.

I don’t know about anyone else, but fireworks (illegal in town) went off far into the night -well past midnight, and a few (directly overhead) closer to 2 am.

Besides being illegal, rude and disruptive, these fireworks were an extreme hazard. An injury or fire would not have been attended to for quite some time.

But besides that, fireworks are, by definition, loud and explosive. It would be difficult to disguise a fireworks display.

And who would do such a thing? My neighborhood is fairly densely populated with lots of flammable bushes and landscaping.

I understand celebrating. But what are these people celebrating?

Somehow I get the feeling that history and patriotism are not the driving factors at 2 am. Neither is getting up for work in the morning. Or consideration of one’s neighbors (and fellow citizens).

But you do have to wonder what these characters do believe in; besides the obvious, like contempt for the law, disregard for the health and well-being of neighbors and minimal concern for personal safety.

Even before this particular 2 am display, I did not have my faith in humanity restored by the behavior of  most of the individuals – or vendors – along Ruston Way at the 2017 Freedom Fair.

The food was mostly greasy and over-priced. The trinkets seemed cheap – and yes, over–priced.

The oddest scene, alongside the elephant ears and hotdogs, was a man on the ground, with blood gushing from his nose, swearing profusely and complaining that another man, a stranger, had somehow bitten the first man’s nose.

I had a young child in tow so I did not linger to hear the full story.

But these stories seem to fit together. Rudeness, shoddy over-priced products and barely coherent violence from strangers seem to be the primary ingredients of how we “celebrate” our identity.

Linus from the Peanuts comic strip used to say “I love mankind…it’s people I can’t stand.” I’m the opposite. I love people as individuals – but humans in the mass – in aggregate, if you will, generally disappoint me.

Crowds, fads and conformity consistently turn me off. The noise, clutter and overall mess of a crowd scene leave me cold and make me want to go home and spend time by myself in the woods or in a book.

I’d like to see a 4th of July event or gathering that somehow honored the courage, determination and desperation of the Founding Fathers. They knew, perhaps more than they knew anything else, how high the stakes were if their “revolt” was not successful.

I know that a study of The Constitution and The Declaration of Independence has none of the pizzazz of a fireworks display. But it might be truer to the tone and intent of those meetings in 1776.

Our celebration, after all, is of something unique in history – a (sometimes clumsy) reach for freedom and equality, a reach never fully satisfied or finished, or even permanently defined.

If we imagine that The United States is defined by its borders, we have lost track of who we are already. The “American Dream” is, by definition, perpetually on the horizon, always out of reach.

As Adlai Stevenson put it “America is much more than a geographical fact. It is a political and moral fact – the first community in which men set out in principle to institutionalize freedom, responsible government, and human equality.”

I’ve always believed that July Fifth should be the holiday/recovery day.

The evening of the 4th of July is consistently the busiest time for our nation’s emergency rooms – not to mention arson, fireworks related injuries and accidental fires.

Maybe we don’t need a recovery day, but perhaps we could dial back our destructiveness and remember that “United” is who we are.

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