I love the Independence Day celebrations on the 4th of July. Historically, I’ve always had an affinity for that era, 1776-ish. I grew up visiting Boston and all over New England for school field trips and was endlessly fascinated by early American History. I’ve also added more contemporary flair to my modern observations. For me, now, the day is not complete until I’ve heard Madison Rising’s version of the “Star-Spangled Banner” and, of course, Ray Charles’ soulful “America the Beautiful.”
Still, it’s easy to get disheartened, even on the 4th of July, especially when you see things like the CampusReform.org footage of college students expressing no pride in and even antipathy toward their country. They truly seem to believe their freedoms are a given—have always been and always will be. Sorry, snowflakes; they weren’t a given for those who fought and died in the American Revolution, they weren’t a given for those who fought and died in every war since, and freedom is certainly not a given to members of the military and law enforcement or to those Americans who appreciate them.
Still, despite the immature babble and drooling out of too many American college students, I came away optimistic after this year’s Independence Day celebrations. When I was an active police officer, I spent very few July 4ths at home or out watching fireworks with my family. This was always tough for me, but it was my duty to stay—and I did it without ever once complaining—ever. (Well, no, not really. I probably complained each and every year I had to work the 4th—not that my fellow officers cared, they were probably complaining too. Nevertheless, I was there, responding from one illegal fireworks call to another or directing traffic at the legal fireworks display at Seattle’s Gasworks Park.)
I’ll start this year’s holiday observations at the park. We didn’t make the trek to Gasworks Park to see the show in person, mostly because they keep the park in Seattle, so we watched it on KIRO TV. Now, I don’t know if this is new or if I’ve just missed it before, but they started off the fireworks festivities with a woman singing the national anthem—in Seattle. Why should I be surprised when I hear the national anthem played, at any venue other than a sporting event, in Seattle? I shouldn’t be; that’s the shame of it. But still, I listened with a warm optimism for the city I served for over two decades. The faint residue of traditional patriotism lingers.
I’m very fortunate that, on the rare occasion when I was off on the 4th, and now that I’m retired, I’m so fortunate to attend a great celebration at a family member’s cabin (really, a charming house on the beach) located on an island in north Puget Sound. Away from the city, the patriotic fervor and pride in one’s nation are palpable. American flags and red, white, and blue everything, are everywhere. And, fittingly, there were several bald eagles in the vicinity to mark the special occasion.
Now, like many extended families, ours is politically split three ways: conservative, liberal, and couldn’t care less—where’d I put my beer? (Some days I wish I were in this latter category. What am I saying? Some days, I am in this latter category. After all, they say ignorance is bliss, and everybody knows bliss goes even better with a beer.) Regardless of our political differences, which between some of these family members can become a bit heated at times, the patriotism flowed—pardon the pun—liberally.
During the entire event, family members of various political hues donned patriotic attire. One ardently liberal couple chose this 4th of July to get married (in a small, succinct but sublime ceremony that served the situation splendidly). The groom sported a blue, white star-bedecked shirt and shorts, and the bride wore a star-spangled summer dress. They looked spectacular! My wife, kids, and I don’t believe the same politically as they do, but so what? We love them both, and they expressed how happy they were that we were there. The groom is a beer rep for a popular local microbrew/pub. So, who cares about his politics. Priorities, folks!
The rural, island neighborhood chose this year to reprise an old 4th of July tradition. The adults, who were kids in the area in the 70s and 80s, recalled the neighbors would gather the children and throw themselves a parade, marching down two blocks of a narrow street just off the beach. It was one of the greatest displays of traditional Americana I’ve ever witnessed. Even the local newspaper covered the story and put several photos up on their media website and Facebook page. I felt honored to be a part of it.
While at the cabin, chatting with other guests and enjoying the good weather, I saw a law enforcement officer driving a pickup toward the beach. I went down to say hi. She was a sergeant with the Washington Department of Fish & Game Police. She’d come down to make sure no one in the area had set out crab pots, as, apparently, they are prohibited on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Anyway, normally when I introduce myself as a retired police officer, people, both cops and non-cops, comment on how nice it must be. In this case, after mentioning I was retired from the Seattle Police Department, rather than congratulate me or give me that good-natured evil eye I get so often from those still working, she said, “Oh, I feel so bad for you guys.” I guess she watches the news, too.
Then, after a brief discussion about Seattle’s lunatic-saturated city government, she brought up a “silver lining.” She said, “Well, at least we hope we’ll benefit from some of you guys coming over to our department.” She may get her wish. There are many stories lately about SPD officers transferring to other agencies. I saw an officer from my department wrote online today that several officers at one time are all testing for another medium-sized local agency.
And recently Rich O’Neill, VP of the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild, told Ed Henry and Dean Cain on Fox News Channel that in his 38 years on the department, he’s never seen so many younger officers with three to 10 years of experience, “just hitting their stride,” leaving for other smaller agencies.
My last observation comes from one of our most important Founding Fathers, John Adams, of my home state of Massachusetts. About the 4th of July and Independence Day celebrations—the future president was off by two days, but his sentiment remains unaltered—a prescient Adams said:
“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”
Keeping these words in mind, I live in a small semi-rural suburb north of Seattle. Two years ago, our city council voted to ban fireworks, or as Adams would say, “illuminations.” This raised the ire of many city residents. They didn’t choose to live in a semi-rural area, expecting it to adopt liberal, big-city restrictions.
On the evening of the 4th, having just gotten home from that spectacular family event I mentioned above, we sat outside, in this small, semi-rural city, and listened to and watched our neighbors put on the biggest private fireworks display we’d ever seen here. We heard nonstop explosions in the near and far distance and enjoyed the bright color bursts on the horizon whenever we could see them between the tall Douglas Firs surrounding our neighborhood.
Apparently, a group of some 400 residents (actually, a large number for such a small city) have loosely organized on a Facebook site to rally like-minded folks to their cause: Re-legalizing fireworks.
As you know, I’m not a big fan of the left’s disregard for laws they don’t like. However, at the risk of being a hypocrite (just a smidge), I admit to feeling some pride that our local citizenry would mount this minor 4th of July, Independence Day civil disobedient “rebellion” against a prohibition on the manner of celebrating a day John Adams himself declared “ought to be solemnized with… Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” What could I possibly add to that?