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Monday, 25 June 2007
The Fourth of July
Topic: The holidays

 Summer is here, which means that the little part of the earth we toil, suffer and occasionally rejoice on is that much closer to the Great Ball of Nuclear Fission otherwise known as the merciless, all consuming god-of-skin cancers. The Sun.  

The Founding Fathers, men in stockings who drank bad coffee rather than tea (you decide which requires greater courage) could have picked a cooler month to make their grandly defiant statement about independence but no, they were in a hurry to tell the lemon-sucking British where to get off and so we’ve been stuck with  July fourth ever since. 

 I suppose they could have picked a worse day, like the twenty-fifth of December. Now that would have been confusing.

I hate to think of all the Christmas trees that would have been burned down by sparklers. But fireworks, however dangerous (like cigars and bad-tempered cats) have always fascinated me. I like to spend the day at my sister’s house. The neighbors shoot off fireworks that would scare a hardened arsonist. Bombs big enough to set off car alarms detonate. Sparks threaten rooftops and the air  thickens with smoke the color of burning paint. As the shock waves bounce from house to house  capillaries burst and eardrums consider rupturing.  No kidding, you would think it was either World War Three or George Bush liberating Temple City.  My wife hates it but I revel in the spectacle of fire arcing in the sky in delirious bursts of artistic chaos. But then I wonder, what are we really celebrating? That we’re free, were free or just nuts?  

 I’ve been helping a student of mine who wishes to take the GED test. In the social studies section of her textbook we read an article about immigration and how people flee their native country to escape poverty and oppression.    My student asked me what oppression is. I told her (relying on that vast storehouse of knowledge that has made me who I am today) that oppression is the loss of freedoms we take for granted. 

“For instance,” I said. “In Saudi Arabia we would be clobbered for doing what we’re doing now. Men and women who aren’t married or related to each other can’t be in the same room!”  Saudi Arabia is a land hot enough to melt M&Ms before they get in your mouth, and women there can’t vote or drive a Volvo. But then there is the Jinadriyah National Festival of folklore and culture, held every February, and I’ve been told that the climate is perfect for growing the most delicious dates; so we shouldn’t say that everything is bad over there.  

Still, the next time you watch a fireworks display or eat a barbecued chicken on Independence Day, consider what life is like without separation of church and state, without women’s rights; and then think about what you can do as a citizen to preserve your basic rights.  

Speak up for the Bill of Rights and drink bad coffee if you have to.   

Posted by james-hazard at 6:15 PM PDT
Updated: Monday, 25 June 2007 6:27 PM PDT

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