The Fourth of July As we gear up to celebrate the 4th of July, we might reflect on what it is and what it means.
Of course, we know that Independence Day is an official federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress. The 13 American colonies were no longer part of the British Empire, but were ready to become an independent nation.
The 4th of July, of course, always occurred during summer vacation. So, when I was growing up, I was usually at our summer house or summer camp and we typically would go somewhere to see fireworks. We would buy the sparklers that you could light and they would sparkle.
Even then, there were warnings that the more impressive fireworks could blowup in your hands and would cause serious injury, so most parents would not let their children near any fireworks that could really light up the sky. The problem for me, even then, was that there was very little connection between the festivities, the historical events that we were supposedly celebrating, and the values that had pushed forward our desire for independence. We love our country.
It is a country where most of us were born and all of us have lived in for a substantial amount of time making our friends, building our families, earning our educational degrees, and going forth into our careers. People in other countries do the same and so it makes sense that they too are patriotic about their countries.
Whether it is Malaysia or Serbia or Canada or Peru, people have an innate love of their country just because it is their country. We in the United States have also had a strong feeling that our country represents a set of values that are not just important but crucial for the betterment of civilization throughout the world. In recent decades, however, there has been a series of cultural wars over what exactly those values are.
We as a Reform congregation can play a crucial role in trying to bridge the chasm between opposing viewpoints by helping to expose the original values that everyone agrees are of crucial importance. While our Independence Day celebrations can be fun, we also want them to help us think deeply about our fundamental values and how we can work together with all Americans to help foster further action, as well as dialogue, in making our community, city, state, country and, indeed, the world a better place.