Showing posts with label 4th of July. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 4th of July. Show all posts

Monday, July 4, 2011

Expat Envy on the 4th of July

On the 4th of July, it is hard to replicate the wonderful experience of celebrating America's independence the way it is done back home.  You can get together with fellow expats, you can try and make the right food, you can pull up some You Tube videos of "A Capitol 4th" from the nation's lawn in Washington D. C. but it's not the same.  Sometimes to really experience something, you just have to be there.

Today, I saw some smoked ribs, baked beans, and cole slaw my friend Scott made for his family, and I was filled with such longing for American food, I had 'expat envy.'

So here's a toast to my friends participating in boat parades on Ten Mile Lake in Minnesota, or marching in the 4th of July parade in Illinois, or watching the fireworks over the lake in Madison, Wisconsin, Chicago, Illinois, or Lake Okoboji, Iowa.  Enjoy your 4th, enjoy your wonderful plate of food, enjoy the view from Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs of purple mountain majesty or of gathered elk in Estes Park, Colorado and pinch yourself at being able to experience such a glorious day. Sometimes we don't appreciate the extra-ordinariness of our everyday existence until we can't experience it like we usually do.

To anyone reading this who has served, is currently serving, or keeping the home fires burning for someone serving our country, thank you so much for your gift of service to the nation.  I appreciate it. I have enjoyed the years of freedom I have experienced that you have made possible.  I don't take it for granted for even one moment.

Similar posts:
My Wish for You: Freedom

My Favorite Freedom

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Update on Obama's Prague Speech

Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans! 233 years of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. May it ever be so.

The New York Times did an update on Obama's step-by-step plans to create a nuclear-free world. He had detailed the steps he wanted to take to get there in his Prague speech. Click on my title to read the whole article.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

My favorite freedom

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Still in a mood to celebrate July 4th, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate my favorite freedom guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States. The Bill of Rights is a list of 10 amendments to the constitution that specifically list rights that Americans citizens are guaranteed.

I have a friend who's Austrian who told me that every single Austrian paycheck has a deduction for the Catholic church and that citizens do not have a choice in the matter. This would be unthinkable in America. Christian culture predominates in America (not always graciously) simply because that's the majority, but I have met Agnostic, Atheist, Bahai, Buddhists, Confucian, Hindi, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, and Wiccan people about town. I don't know any Janists or Zoroastrians but, who knows, my circle of friends may be too narrow.

A fun way I experience other cultures is to visit and worship in other people's churches. My very favorite places to go are African-American churches because the music and the clothes and the joy are fantastic. Next would be Catholic Churches that are drop-dead gorgeous where passionate believers are engaging in all of their favorite rituals.

My own church is Congregationalist, which is very, very American, because it is governed from the bottom up. Barack Obama, until he parted ways with his minister, was a Congregationalist. Besides that grass-roots lack of hierarchy, what I fell in love with was the music (gorgeous, traditional hymns) and the strong sense of progressive social justice that runs throughout the history of my denomination.

But anyway, freedom from state religion is not my favorite American freedom. I got sidetracked. My favorite freedom is the freedom of speech and press. I think the healthiest measure of a democracy is the ability to say "the emperor has no clothes."

When bad ideas are allowed to hit the air, they can be quickly rejected. I was reading a book the other day about a culture that is known for people saying one thing and doing another. Why won't they say what they actually believe? Because political correctness is so powerful, that to say out loud what you actually believe, is unacceptable. There must be no correlation between speech and actions. Talk about a way for kids to become confused and believe lies. How does a culture move forward, grow, and be flexible if ideas can't be talked about?

A big part of free speech that is hard to live with is speech that is tasteless, irresponsible, and/or hateful. But hateful speech spoken out loud, in freedom, can be countered. Hateful speech, whispered, can not.

I've had a couple instances in my life where I had the opportunity to stand up and defend free speech. One time, when I was serving on my local library board, Madonna published her book "Sex." Fundamentalist Christians showed up at our board meeting demanding we remove the book from the public library. If we caved into their very emotional and vocal demands we would have been violating our own standards of selection. Our originally adopted selection policy required purchasing every single title that was on the New York Times bestsellers list. Madonna was #1 on that list. I made the motion to stick by our policy. I believe it passed unanimously.

Most of the time, I feel lonely in my appreciation of this freedom. Not very many Americans seem rabidly passionate about it. The erosion of civil liberties that is taking place in my country does seem, frankly, un-American.

For example, reading that our Guantanamo interrogation techniques had been borrowed from Chinese communist torture techniques seemed 100% plausible because it's so alien to our values. It all seems so insane. This isn't the way Americans do things! Which brings us back to the question: why then, ARE WE DOING IT? And I ask that with the greatest respect and appreciation for the mission of the people who keep us safe.

Until the present administration came into power, I never once thought about "does the Constitution apply to everyone who is physically present in the geographical boundaries of America or just the citizens? Does it still apply to American citizens when they go overseas? Does it apply to the way we expect our government to behave outside of our geographical boundaries to non-citizens?

Friday, July 4, 2008

My wish for you: Freedom

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Hello World! Hello Czech friends!

Today is the 4th of July, the day Americans celebrate our declaration of independence. It is impossible for me to read these words without awe - they move me that much. Thomas Jefferson wrote those words in his Declaration of Independence and they were unanimously adopted by men who were willing to risk their lives and property by signing it.

I remember when my Czech friend Kate said that Americans take seriously things the rest of the world has developed complete cynicism over - things like government of the people, by the people and for the people. It's true. When it comes to the ideas around the "idea" of America, I have the faith and belief of a child. I don't believe Czechs are any different about their belief actually - witness the Prague Spring, the Velvet Revolution, and the Velvet Divorce. Czechs are no less outraged than we are when the ideal is not realized.

Here is how I will celebrate my country's holiday in Illinois.
I think it is very typical:

Yesterday I went to a symphonic concert of patriotic music that started with everyone singing the Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem. The concert was held under the stars in a spectacular, recently-built outdoor amphitheater.

At Independence Day concerts, it is traditional to play the anthems of all the military services and for the veterans of each service to stand during their military branch's anthem. When these 60-80-year-old gentlemen stand, it humbles me and makes me grateful. You can literally feel the passion behind that phrase "the last full measure of their devotion" immortalized by Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address.

There must always be at least one piece by John Williams, a composer who is a national treasure (non-Americans may be most familiar with the movie music he wrote to accompany Jaws and Star Wars). This year the maestro chose the theme to Indiana Jones movies.

This year a new talent's work was featured called "Reflections on Rushmore." Written by a young Iowan named Michael Gilbertson when he was eighteen years old (two years later he is now studying composition at Julliard), the piece was an homage to the four Presidents featured on Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. Originally commissioned by the Houston Symphony Orchestra, this was only the second time "Reflections on Rushmore" had been performed. My local symphony is going to play the world premiere of his next work. Ironically, when looking for an image of young Michael Gilbertson, I found this wonderful Czech music project he was involved in - click here.

While I adore patriotic music, my favorite part of the concert was featured medleys of Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck. My least favorite was a medley of Beach Boys tunes. The Beach Boys were not meant for symphonic arrangement!

All 4th of July concerts I have ever seen always end the same way with the "Stars and Stripes Forever" featuring marvelous piccolo solos, enthusiastic hand clapping, and fireworks. Watching the fireworks from under the open roof made the booms just that much more powerful and fun.

Tonight I will make a very simple 4th of July dinner of brats cooked on the grill, corn on the cob and fresh green beans. Then I will join thousands of other people down at the Rock River for a truly AWESOME fireworks display. It is even more magnificent than Chicago's because the space it is delivered in is much smaller so the fireworks appear much, much bigger.

I wish anyone reading this: freedom.
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