Happy Fourth of July!

In the United States of America, the Fourth of July is Independence Day, the day we celebrate our freedom from tyranny and the birth of a great nation. I won’t be so crass or presumptuous as to say the greatest nation, though I tend to think so.

In spite of the faults that my great nation has, I still think so. Maybe this is biased patriotism, and shouldn’t it be? Shouldn’t one be proud of their nation’s accomplishments and be partial to it before others? Even in spite of the problems the United States of America currently face: the economic and political drain of the occupation of Iraq; the decline of science education in public schools; the call to allow pseudoscience to be presented as fact; our dependence on foreign oil; apparent political corruption; and so on.

The pride comes from knowing that, these problems exist because of the freedoms that my nation has secured. I may not like the fact that religious groups in the U.S. have convinced so many of their pseudoscience and limited ways of thinking, but I applaud the fact that they are able to say what’s on their mind without being oppressed. I don’t’ like our wasteful habits with regard to petroleum and energy, but the innovation that this nation is capable of can answer that problem. And as a 12 year veteran of the U.S. Army, I’m pained at the loss of life and limb that seems to occur on a daily basis since our President announced, “mission accomplished,” but I’m proud of their willingness to leave their loved ones in the service of their country -whether or not you think that service is justified.

Just in time for the birthday of our nation and, perhaps, of the Flag that represents her, the U.S. Senate voted, in the narrowest of margins, against a ban on burning the Flag. We Americans do something that few other nations do: we anthropomorphize our banner; we personalize our colors; and we give life to the thread and dye that comprise the flag of our nation to an extent that it becomes the nation on some level. This is why the the act of burning the Flag is painful. Even when Old Glory is burned in a retirement ceremony, the act brings the sadness of a funeral, if just for a moment.

Protesters burn the American as a means to bring pain and sadness to Americans, sometimes fellow Americans. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a flag burning that wasn’t a retirement ceremony except while watching the evening news about people in other countries who were upset with America. But burning an American flag is often the only means of lashing out against a nation so powerful yet so far away -or it was until 9/11. As sad and painful as it is to see the Old Glory burned by angry people or protesters, the Senate’s vote to not approve a ban on flag burning ensured that the one of the very freedoms she stands for continue to be protected. You see, burning a flag destroys the cotton and dye. Banning this as a means of protest begins the destruction of Old Glory. Old Glory is freedom. Freedom both of and from religion; freedom to be innovative; freedom to speak your mind; and other freedoms that bring happiness to some and upset others.

It is preferable to me to grieve at the sight of her burning than to not have Old Glory continue to stand for freedoms that include protest and dissent, even if it means burning the cotton and dye in public display. No protester; no terrorist; no angry citizen of another nation or this one can truly burn Old Glory.

That’s not to say I’m opposed, however, to very stiff fines for having an open fire in city limits without a permit. Safety is important too.

Have a safe and happy Fourth; be careful with your fireworks and your fire-water; and don’t forget those that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our Freedoms.

About Carl Feagans 397 Articles
Professional archaeologist that currently works for the United States Forest Service at the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area in Kentucky and Tennessee. I'm also a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Army and spent another 10 years doing adventure programming with at-risk teens before earning my master's degree at the University of Texas at Arlington.

1 Comment

  1. Beautiful. Just beautiful.

    One eyesore I noticed, though, is that you’re appearently buying into the ‘technology will solve our fossil fuel dependence’ nonsense. That’s bunkum.

    The dependence on fossil fuels is inheirently a political decision. The technology exists today that could replace fossil fuels for most (civilian) uses – without massive increases in running costs (startup costs is another question).

    For that matter, even if it didn’t, to use or not to use fossil fuels would still be a political decision. The parametres would differ, certainly, but the basic question would remain largely the same.

    What you celebrate on the 4th of July (and what we Danes celebrate on the 5th of June) is not so much human ingeniuity – although a nice by-product of democracy and liberty is that said ingeniuity flourishes [1] – as it is the ability of the citizenry to take part in the making of important decisions, such as whether to remain dependent on fossil fuels.

    [1] The corollary to this claim is that reducing civil liberties and dismantling democracy would result in technological stagnation, a point certain businesspeople might want to keep in mind…

    – JS

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