Whenever I see images from other countries’ celebrations, I look at their traditions from the outside peering in. Holi, the Hindu spring festival in India, looks insanely fun and joyful and colorful, as does Brazil’s Carnival and Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos. I’ve never thought about the 4th of July, our Independence Day, as an outsider. Probably because, well, I’m an insider to the celebration, as are most people who grew up in the United States. When I think about its traditions more, it is a very cool holiday. Everyone across the country gets outside to gaze skyward in search of bursting chemicals turning into flowers of brilliant colors. It is a uniting holiday and a communal one between the millions of people who call the U.S. home. The fireworks, bombs bursting in air, symbolize our nation’s independence and freedom and our way of life. A large part of me relishes this patriotism. I soak it up because in uncountable ways I am proud of what the celebration stands for and what our country stands for. The small other part of me cringes at the dark underbelly of American politics where greed, corruption, and uncompromising vainglory lurk. I also cringe at the clichés evoked from words like “‘MERICA”* and terrible uses of the American flag. I try not to let these cringeworthy images overrun the positive elements of the holiday which are surely greater in abundance.
I spent this July 4th hiking up to the Flatirons near Boulder, Colorado. We spent most of the day up there, climbing around on the rocks, setting up a hammock, taking a nap, talking, and drinking beer. The day was full of sprawling panorama views of the city and distant snowcapped mountains. Unfortunately, the indecisive and confused Colorado weather urged us to climb down at dusk, as well as our friend Felix needing to get home at a reasonable hour for work the next day and the fact that only one of us brought a headlamp. Nick and I briefly watched over the city in an open field near the beginning of the trailhead. We saw fireworks shows across the horizon, although uncharacteristically quiet because of our distance from them. As we were watching and listening to the murmurs of our fellow spectators, I thought about my family and friends back East, who were the first to celebrate, and my family and friends in the Midwest, the next to celebrate. The holiday moved across the U.S. as the setting sun does.
*In uppercase simply because no person who says this word says it quietly.
Note: I didn’t get any pictures of actual fireworks, hence the panorama of Boulder as the featured image. I know you must be terribly let down because there is such a shortage of fireworks pictures across social media, and for this I am sorry.