Fourth of July Celebration

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When I think of the Fourth of July of my youth, I think of fireworks and watermelon and the carnival in the park.

I grew up on a farm about six miles from the nearest town (village, really) and we always had some backyard fireworks; sparklers, fire crackers, and Roman candles. The town kids did, too. There weren’t any restrictions, people knew better than to set fireworks off in dry grass. We didn’t limit our enjoyment of fireworks to the evening of the Fourth. Everyone had fireworks until the local merchants sold out and the last fuse was lit. Fireworks in July was as big a tradition as presents for Christmas. You couldn’t celebrate the Fourth without fireworks!

I looked forward to the celebration when I was small and couldn’t wait for the carnival to arrive. Back then, it consisted of a rickety Ferris wheel, a merry-go-round, and a cluster of small midway games. For a dime, you could have three tries at a game where even the skilled were unlikely to win a prize… But we all tried. I vaguely remember a fortune teller, fat lady, and a sword swallower… or maybe he was a fire eater.

And, the community pool was open.

Then disaster struck… Sometime before I started first grade, a child in our community was diagnosed with Polio. Weekly news about the little girl in the iron lung put fear in the heart of every parent. Summer fun stopped. The pool closed and the carnival didn’t come to town again for years. And for the farm kids, me and my brother, Polio season meant fear and isolation. But, it didn’t end our celebration of freedom or dampen our patriotism.

Patriotism was a year round endeavor. Back then, we began each school day with the Lord’s Prayer, Flag Salute, and MY COUNTRY  TIS OF THEE. Parents didn’t have to teach patriotism, they lived it. It was taught at school and revered at church.

Things have changed. Today, the responsibility for raising kids to become citizens who love America rests at home. If you don’t teach your child to love this country, someone else may teach them to hate it. If you don’t teach your child American history and why the Colonists hated the tyranny of British rule, they may learn to accept the gradual loss of freedoms that could end our Democratic Republic form of government.

Sixty years ago when I sat in American history class, I didn’t find it that interesting. I don’t think the teacher had time to cover it all, and I missed some of it anyway. But, a few years ago, I received an opportunity for a refresher course that isn’t available to most… a contract to write a book about the RIGHT TO VOTE. In writing that book, I had to include the background and explain why the Colonists hated British rule so much. It was bad! I can’t even imagine the loss of privacy involved in being ordered to provide lodging British soldiers! While researching this book, I learned a lot of American history that led to the items included in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the strong desire to guarantee the right to vote.

The right to vote is the right that protects all other rights… and when that right is diminished all other freedoms are in jeopardy.