Our Annual Defiance to Death – The Fourth of July

I can only write from what I have witnessed for nearly fifty years in this nation and I have witnessed much.

The Founding Fathers had no time to consider the future ramifications of declaring independence in the summer season of 1776. The near future was of concern but the idea that swirled predominantly in their minds was simple: let’s hope this idea doesn’t turn into a noose.

Summers were different in Colonial Life. Although cities and towns had been etched out of woods, mountain and marsh for more than a century, it was still a daily struggle to eke out sustenance; to survive through toil by land or sea, secure shelter, find comfort from the pain or heat of every day; then, do it all over again the next day.

These hearty souls – from landed, literate homes or the illiterate off-spring and bastards of settlers and debtors, your common citizen – had no idea they were forging the basis for the ultimate day long American party – the Fourth of July. (Apologies Super Bowl lovers.)

Independence Day then held nothing as Independence Day holds today. Today it is the crescendo of the summer. We arch toward this day through our work and school year and explode high in the sky; to fall gently to the burnt scent of summer’s end giving way to autumn harvest.

For their labor of love, we express thanks for independence in many sordid yet understandably American ways. Understandable since it defines the nation and its people who forged it from the shores to the forest and unto the mountains’ peaks of the continent they conquered.

We salute independence as we pack the ice chest, barbeque and car to leisure about the lake, an ocean or perhaps just the pool; an entire care-free day, even if stodgy, work alcoholic Benjamin Franklin might say nothingness is without virtue. (Sam Adams and his crew would simply demand plenty of ale.)

We have come to so appreciate our independence that we are unable to constrain the anticipation. Thus, many towns from sea-to shining sea start their festivities the night before the Fourth.

As the daylight wanes on the third of July, the Geriatric patriots arrive three, four hours early to secure their spots as close as possible to another Independence celebration and as the dark falls, they become children again, sitting in their camp chairs so close that their white and blue hair nearly singe from the explosives’ embers. The light and sound resuscitate their hearts and souls – an annual patriotic electro-shock; America’s defibrillation paddles. They remember the danger of life and liberty.

People gathered in a deep dark awe, heads trained high, as the children roam wild without note of supervision, their parents eyes fixed to the wonder of the flashing festivities; their passions rekindled to pre-familial days, days of learning to love one another and country, taught to them by parents, who politely sat them on the curb once upon a time and lit the suburban night sky.

We salute independence today often at a pitched camp site. Some blankets, a tent, we perhaps sleep off that pre-Fourth warm up to arrive at Independence Day among the throng of swelling celebratory crowds.

A new generation of The Sons of Liberty – teenagers plot their celebratory course as well. Packed in back seats with the younger siblings, they have set independent plans for Independence Day.

The teen boy approached by teen girl who tells of her best girl friend’s desire to see him tonight at some prearranged darkened spot. The boys with distinctly different expectations than the girls in this reverse clandestine teenage hormonal rendezvous.

Their anti-teen friends are giddy with rebellious excitement as they bicycle their way to the festivities – hits of ecstasy or window pane, a joint in their pant pockets.

By peddle or motor, patriotic bikers roar into parks and camps. The saddle bags and mini-trailers well stocked for a day long bender. These young rebels unleashed into the swelling crowds of revelers.

Sometime later as consumption reaches its independent levels, the tension builds like their bladders. The park or camp continues to swell with bikers – friend or foe. They all salute independence with salvos of drinks becoming so liberally librated that one wrong word or smart eye of another mullet headed road warrior spark midday fireworks as they engage in a profane, yet ultimately un-American sumo dance, bellies colliding, beet red faces bumping, tumbling down the grass, rolling randomly, nearly crushing helpless innocent infants laid out on blankets like the now obliterated side dishes that were oh so carefully made the night prior by their suburban mothers.

This distraction provides that moment the tripping teens can liberate adult beverages, beer and smokes from their parent’s inventory. The stealth teen snatch and grab to carry off to a hideaway in the trees or lagoon, where their less courageous comrades await feeding like baby birds in a nest.

A few ounces of beer, a shared stick of nicotine, the teen becomes displeasingly dizzy as their booty pulses through their pure blood stream. The illegal firecracker lit for fun, bursts in hand before release. The burn of a bottle rocket fallen to ground, fired like a RPG. The ear blasted by cherry bomb stuck closely in the knot of a tree. The dizzying pain they feel inside and out of body. The lake, the river or pool shine like some oasis or triage to relieve the self-inflicted wounds. Forward they lurch for the blue relief.

These are the children of independence, the new risk takers who scorn the hazard of rocks in the shallows, the frigid cold stunning rapid rush of water from which they may not return. And if they do emerge, they shiver uncontrollably requiring they rejoin their parent’s barbeque site for warmth.

The fire draws them like moths close, closer, closer; a slip of the intoxicated foot, into the fire onto the grill they fall. Half in the bag parents – veterans of this generation rite of passage stumble to their aid. It naturally is too late to spare the grill stripes of burnt flesh criss-crossing a thigh, leg or arm. They are now the early hor d’oeuvres of the drawing dark of Independence Day.

And as dusk settles, under the rockets’ red glare, toddlers and Tweenies lacerate their bare feet upon the broken discarded bottles strewn about the grounds. The virgin teens have their appointed necking session interrupted by an overzealous hand reaching for second base, an appendage darting uncomfortably, dangerously into a damp leg or hip.

The drunken, tripping teen awakes upon the hood of some unknown parked car. The biker watches from his feet or police cruiser seat. All words and cries muted by the booming mortar salvos.

The ground shakes like mighty orgasms of a mighty nation, pounding the earth ordained for them.

We celebrate you America. We are like those who forged you – defiant, intoxicated, aggressive, daring death to live liberty at its fullest – right or wrong. We’re American – chalk up more wins than losses. We are the maniac militia of men and women who have evolved from our forefathers. Pay heed any who dare do us harm because we will do you greater harm than we do upon ourselves. Independence Day is simply practice.

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