By Marty Russell
Is this a great country or what? We’re free to whine and moan and complain about it 364 days out of the year but on July 4 we’re also free to put all of that aside, invite the neighbors over, build a fire in the backyard, burn some animal parts, consume way too much beer (especially for a Wednesday), blow things up and then wave a flag (or at least appear to wave one as we sway from the beer) and declare this the greatest country on Earth.
And you know something, we’re right.
Oh, sure, we’re going to hell in a hand basket, but we always have been. This country has faced more crises than every dime novel heroine combined. We’ve had wars, lots of them, famine, depressions (notice the plural), natural disasters, arguments galore over politics such as the current polarization that seems to have us paralyzed and unable to agree on anything. Hell, we can’t even get the date of our own independence right (Congress declared independence from Great Britain on July 2, the document didn’t reach the printer until July 4 and the printer put that date at the top).
But we always manage to pull through somehow, and I think the familiar Fourth of July celebrations are a good metaphor for why we do.
As Harper Lee wrote in “To Kill A Mockingbird,” “You can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family, an they’re still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge ’em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don’t.”
We are a family, that’s why it’s “we the people,” not “us the people,” or “they the people” or “me the people.” We’re all in this together and just like any family, we can’t control who joins and who doesn’t. Family members join by birth, by marriage, by fleeing someplace less hospitable or free and by choice. But once they’re here, they’re part of the family.
You wouldn’t think of not inviting your crazy Uncle Joe to the Fourth of July cookout even though he once tried to strap bottle rockets to the cat and he always insists his way is the proper way to light a barbeque grill even though it involves mixing nitrogen with oxygen and putting a match to it.
You may think he’s a complete looney tune but he’s still your complete looney tune and he still deserves a place at the table, albeit a good distance away from anything flammable.
As the old saying goes, you can’t choose your family but you can’t choose to ignore them either because to do so means ignoring a part of yourself. Perhaps that’s something we should all remember come July 5.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.