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Friday, July 4, 2003

What's a typical American Fourth of July? Friends get together and have fun. Children of all ages play together, and all the adults watch everyone else's kids. A lot of eating and a fair amount of drinking take place. People laugh and talk and reminisce and exchange good wishes for the rest of the summer.

And then, as it gets dark, everyone gathers in the street and sets things on fire. There are lights and colors and noise and smoke, and people say things like "Oooh!" and "Aaaahh!" and "Look out!" and "What was that?" Then water is poured over the debris, things get cleaned up or swept away, and we all go home happy.

4 July 03

Palm trees against the Sonoma County sky.

Actually, I don't know if that's typical or not. But it's the way we usually celebrate, and I'm pretty sure it's what the Founding Fathers had in mind for every generation of Americans. They wanted us to remember that this country was created out of principle, and they expected us to commemorate the courage and vision that it took to carve a democratic society out of Old World values and an apparently endless wilderness.

It's also possible that they thought there was more to be done. Maybe they realized in 1776 that two and a quarter centuries later, we'd still be struggling to perfect the vision, and still looking for men and women of courage to help us get there. I think they believed we might need reminding, at least once a year, that there is still work to be done.

We remember them for a reason, and we need the kind of character they showed just as much now as we did then. Maybe more. We are sometimes so pleased with ourselves and satisfied with the way things are that we forget that liberty and justice for all means something. Those are not just words. They're our guiding principles. They're the goals we still haven't quite reached.

It's good to see that we're still making progress, though. Sometimes we might take a step or two backwards, but there are still leaders who inspire us to strive for the kind of society that's worthy of all the pomp and circumstance, all the "bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other," in the prophetic words of John Adams (although he thought we'd be doing this "from this time forward forever more" on July 2 every year).

4 July 03

Fires in the cul-de-sac.

Personally, I've had a great weekend so far, and it's only just begun. I went to David's house last night for a barbecue and got to spend the evening with Eric, David, Tammy and her two boys. Then today I went to a block party with family and friends and spent the day hanging out with more people than I usually see in an entire month. Tomorrow being Saturday, I expect to catch up on sleep. I'm trying not to think too far beyond that.

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The one year ago entry is a photo essay of last year's celebration. I was much better with the camera than I was this year.

Recent recommendations can always be found on the links page.

Two years ago: A Declaration
"The courage of Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin, however imperfectly realized, should inspire those oppressed by despots and tyrants for as long as freedom for all remains a goal instead of a fact."

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