Happy Independence Day – the meaning behind the 4th of July

Happy 4th of July! Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Happy Independence Day!

My aunt and godmother just sent around this photo. My Grandpa Ryan is the tyke in front with the flag. He was also a WWII veteran.

The email from my aunt came shortly after I was complaining about fireworks. Our neighborhood is full of kids, which I absolutely love: They play tag, ride bikes and zip in and out of each other’s houses from breakfast until dusk. They even knock on our door to see if Peeper can play, and they take turns jumping on our mini-trampoline with her. We have a beautiful community.

But they also light fireworks. Perhaps the local fireworks tent had a buy-one-get-five-hundred-free deal, but good grief the explosions.

With a baby who hardly sleeps, a preschooler who’s terrified of any noise louder than a door shutting, and a dog whose special needs include anxiety, the holiday is just not my favorite.

Getting over myself

I deserve this, of course. When I was a kid, we not only rode our bikes down to the fireworks tent and spent every cent we could scrape together, my siblings and I also made “bombs” with fireworks powder, a wick and a 1-liter pop bottle. (I know. Terrifying. It’s a miracle we all have 10 fingers left.)

More than that, today isn’t about fireworks—whether you love them or hate them.

Amidst today’s BBQs and loathing of Whistling Petes, I’ll make a point to remember the meaning behind the 4th of July.

Today is about freedom

The freedom to eat watermelon slices and grill with friends and slather squirming kids in SPF may seem trivial, but it’s not. We have the option to do these things—or not.

But I also remember that many people who live in the United States don’t enjoy freedom from oppression like our founding fathers declared so many Julys ago. People are oppressed because of whom they love. They are oppressed because of where their parents or grandparents were born. They are oppressed because of the zip code where they live. They are oppressed for the color of their skin, or where they worship, or what they mark—or don’t mark—on the “gender” box of some official form.

And many people are not free beyond our borders. I think of the millions of men, women and children who are fleeing their homes in fear of their lives. I think of the people who are persecuted for their religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and so much more.

Thinking about the too many people who don’t have the same freedoms as I do does not put a damper on my 4th of July. Recognizing my own privilege makes me value those freedoms even more. It makes me grateful for my country and my family and the many, many strangers who have worked hard to ensure I can hang out on a friend’s lawn eating potato salad today.

Thank you to all of you who do everything in your power to preserve our freedoms, big and small.

I encourage you to consider the meaning behind the 4th of July, too. What does it mean to you?

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