Or.... Viewing every town's fireworks on a drive Pike-West.
It was a 35 mile drive home from the 4th of July cookout and parade, which was one reason I missed the world-famous (pardon my amero-centric Independence Day glee -- I meant, "nationally renowned") Boston fireworks, though I had an "in" on a rooftop view. There was a workday ahead, and rain already falling, so The Tarletons dropped me off at my car, I missed the turn to the Pike (twice) and headed out of town, catching fireworks along the way.
It was cool in one way -- surprising and beautiful, big green chrysanthemums appearing beyond the sound barriers. At the Newton tolls, the boy handing out tickets gave me a huge smile and pointed them out to my right. "Do you see that?" he said excitedly, "I have the best view!" A suitable reward for working in a tollbooth in the rain on a federal holiday.
Please turn off your wipers, drivers. Just think the thing through, would you? Poor guy.
Then the lighting, the haze, the empty streets, reminded me a little of this
and that thought was in the front seat with me all the way home.
During the parade I attended, after several bagpipe bands and fire engines, was a delegation from Veterans for Peace , who carried their banner and a few homemade signs like "3500 US dead" and "Fund Schools, not Bombs." And spectators applauded, and waved. Some stood from their chairs. But to my right, a man had turned his back on the parade and began to berate the applauding supporters, complete with wagging finger, saying "This is not the time to protest!"
He kept trying to quote John Adams, by starting, "John Adams said... John Adams... John Adam said..." (By the way, 'round here, that's pronounced "Joo-wwaahn" and lasts 2 seconds) but people kept shouting over him and clapping more loudly.
On the way home, we talked about this not ("noo-waaaht") being the time to protest. Commemorating our revolution is no time to be speaking out against your government. Having the entire town gathered in front of their houses is not the occasion to take a poll on funding our winless war of the day. While wrapped in the flag, you should not rub a corner between finger and thumb and wonder aloud, "What's this fabric, anyway?"
I went looking for what in the world John Adams said that may have supported this idea.
I don't think it was
"Liberty, once lost, is lost forever."
"Power always thinks... that it is doing God's service when it is violating all his laws."
"Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war. "
John Adams also said, "I'm obnoxious and disliked."
I can't claim to know enough about John Adams to say he never said anything worth quoting by a "My Country Right or Wrong" Public Scold. I wish he had left his buzz kill at home. If not for him, I might have enjoyed the bright green sky without thinking of night vision goggles and the strafing of Baghdad -- and not even a current strafing, but one from 15 years ago.
But then I wouldn't have come back to Yes. Yes, it is the time to protest. The Declaration is a protest still relevant today, and I wish that more parades and town squares read it at the start of their parade. Our scolding passerby might have interrupted that as well, not knowing he hadn't walked into a condemnation of our current government.
As a society, we like our events bloated and over-produced, corny as all hell, full of every symbol we can respond to without question. As an individual, I like symbols like this:
killed July 4, 2007:
Andrew Engstrom, age 22, of Slaton, TX in Baghdad. Death under investigation.
Scott Oswell, age 33, of Washington in Mosul. Helicopter crash.
Steven Davis, age 23, of Woodbridge, VA in Baghdad. Grenade attack.