Monday, July 6, 2009

Independence Day

Fourth of July has passed nearly unnoticed for me for the past two years. This year, I was working, so it hardly seemed like a holiday. I did get to stand and watch the fireworks at work for 15 minutes. I had no customers, so I effectively got paid to watch fireworks. But I saw the fireworks on Wednesday and Friday, too, so it didn't seem special. Really the only thing to distinguish Saturday from the other days was the plethora of American-flag-related t-shirts. And even then, I saw almost as much Ed Hardy.

Last fourth of July, I was in New Zealand so it is easy to see why I hardly noticed it. I had just arrived in Dunedin 4 days earlier. It was cold outside and colder in my flat. It didn't feel like the season for barbecues and fireworks. The only time you can buy fireworks in New Zealand is around Guy Fawkes' Day (5th of November). New Zealand's version of Independence Day, Waitangi Day, is February 6th - summer for them. It celebrates the treaty that formed New Zealand as a country - or, rather, as a British colony. They don't celebrate becoming an independent country, since they still have strong ties to Britain (they're a constitutional monarchy; they celebrate the Queen's birthday).

Anyway, last year I went on a train trip on July 4th to the Taieri Gorge. There was in fact a barbecue at the end, but I wasn't more than dimly aware of the fact that that should have meant something. So I suppose I've not been celebrating America properly, and I've probably been taking it for granted. Going abroad didn't help; it made me long for things that America isn't, instead. I wished I had been born a Kiwi, while I was there. But, in the long run, I suppose you could say I am proud to be an American in some ways. Not in others. But I do recognize the great personal freedoms we have - yet I also see the danger in overestimating them. Everyone can't be someone in America, but I guess you could at least say they can try.

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