Today is one of the most interesting July 4ths in my life. I was born on the banks of the mighty Delaware, to parents with a myriad of ethnic backgrounds. Many summers have been spent with my feet in the ocean that connects us to our motherland. Most of my school days were passed in the “purple mountains” of Appalachia. And I’ve lived the last decade in and around a city rich with history: Philadelphia.
Now, I’m on the very edge of the country, in a town that is heavily Mexican. I’m in daily contact with foreign citizens and immigrants. “Tired, poor, huddled masses” are everywhere. And I have a definite sense of “outsider” that I’ve never experienced before. Patriotism isn’t something I can take for granted anymore. But the reason for that is surprising, actually. It’s not because patriotism is diminished here. Rather, the opposite.
I’ve never been in a place that celebrated the Fourth of July as voraciously as this town. Events began at 9am, and will continue throughout the day, until well past midnight. Every organization, company, and private citizen will turn out for the evening’s festivities. Thousands of people will be barbecuing, singing, dancing, and honoring an independence long won.
Every other 4th, I’ve spent in a backyard BBQ or at a pool party, searching for a township that will still run the insurance risk of a fireworks display. I’ve never considered just how remarkable this holiday is, not just for it’s historical significance, but for what it has come to symbolize. We love Britain, I get the idea that we always have, that we probably always will. But it was our goal to be something different, something Britain wouldn’t (couldn’t) be. We’re a haven, a place of mercy and refuge for those who had nowhere else to go. And our power comes from us, from “the consent of the governed.”
We are unique. I never realized how unique until this past year.
I would love to close on a resounding point. But all I come back to is the all-encompassing urge of foreign citizens to be a part of our country. Men, women, and children risk their lives on a daily basis to get to the U.S. We have our issues, be they political, social, or psychological. But hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people a day spend all their money, walk hundreds of miles, give up their homes, their families, and their livelihoods, just to have a shot at living here, and being a part of what we are.
We’re doing something right.