The Fifth of July

5 Jul

For the Fourth of July, I spent time with some friends who invited me to their pool party and cookout. It was nice of them to ask, and I enjoyed myself very much. The day was spent swimming and hanging out by the pool. People talked, laughed and drank beer while kids ran all over the place. What could be more American than that?

Once dusk began to set in, we went to the park for a cookout and to watch the city’s fireworks show. We had the usual fare – hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans, and any other cookout food you might think of. Some of us guys played Cornhole, which is a terrible name for a game, until we realized that a few of the players should turn professional. How would you like to be that? A professional cornholer.

People started to pour into the park and soon the fireworks show began. Everyone looked into the sky and pretended like they had never seen a fireworks show before. Through the ooh’s and aah’s, I began to think what it must have been like for Francis Scott Key to see real bombs bursting in air at Fort McHenry. I suppose that is the historian coming out in me.

As I thought about Francis, something else entered my mind. Through the entire day’s activities, not one person mentioned what the celebration was about. They talked about having a day off and going back to work tomorrow. They talked about the upcoming football season. They also talked about how hot it has been lately. But, no one talked about it being the anniversary of our nation’s independence. Not even me, the American historian. It seems that the Fourth of July was no different from the Fifth of July.

I have been thinking about this ever since I left the gathering. Have we forgotten what the holiday is all about? Do we care? Have we gotten so comfortable with our freedoms that we take them for granted? On top of that, do we really understand our nation? Do we recognize its good qualities and its bad ones? Honestly, I am not sure.

We have a Pledge of Allegiance, but I made a pledge to myself. I will re-energize myself and make sure that I teach American history to the best of my ability. Sometimes, I get into the day-to-day grind and forget that my job is to prevent the past, with all of its complexities, from being lost. I will not forget again.

There is no way to project the whole of the United States in one photograph, but I want to end this post with, in my opinion, the most “American” photograph in my computer.

That is Keel Drug Store in the small town of Ballinger, Texas. For many years, it was owned and operated by Gene Keel, the father of my late uncle Johnny Keel. I can’t think of anything more American than a small business in a small town with a flag flying out front. Rest in Peace, Johnny. We all miss you.

3 Responses to “The Fifth of July”

  1. paintlater July 5, 2012 at 08:07 #

    Happy 4th July! Cheers

  2. sj July 5, 2012 at 15:07 #

    I love this post. Your pledge to yourself is admirable. I’m sure your students are lucky to have someone like you as their professor.

    • surroundedbyimbeciles July 5, 2012 at 16:18 #

      I appreciate that. I just hope they pick up a few things here and there. People usually find history more interesting as they get older.

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