Fireworks burst in air over Rita Blanca
By Robin Scott
Back in 1776, people didn’t use the phrase, “I’m proud to be an American.” At that time, the colonies were sovereign from one another and the colonists were just beginning to understand that they were no longer under British rule. Many events in history have given rise to a theme of pride and of unity, beginning with the Revolution, and most recently with the war in Iraq.
Having pride conjures up many thoughts: pride in one’s work ethic, pride in one’s children’s accomplishments or pride in how beautiful the gardening and landscaping appear in the front yard. Asking a random group of individuals about what makes them feel proud and the answers are endless. But, add the word “American” to the question and the answers become focused, deliberate and heartfelt.
Having pride in being an American has its roots in the aftermath of the civil war when for the first time in America’s history, the states became unified and the new world became the United State of America. Still, the unification came at an unbelievably high price and people weren’t running around waving an American flag. Pride came slowly and over time, but was catapulted to the forefront in the minds of Americans during World War II. Citizens had to come together and join forces. Women went to work outside of the home to replace men who’d gone off to fight in Europe. Men went off for the entirety of the war, not for a tour of duty
After World War II Americans had firmly established a camaraderie with one another, and a link was created between the average American citizen and those brave soldiers and sailors who went off to fight in war. Fighting for freedom became an American theme, and Americans had become the safe keepers of democracy across the world. Although keeping the world safe for democracy was a concept born during World War I and President Woodrow Wilson, it truly took off during and after World War I. People began to “feel” American as in no other time in history.
Since World War II, the Korean War and the War in Vietnam, people have demonstrated a personal sense of pride in America, regardless of what side of the political spectrum their views fell on. Whether “for” a war, or “against” it, being American has a connotation like no other word in any language. Its meaning goes far beyond being a person born within the borders of the United States or to American parents who live outside of the United States at the time of one’s birth. Being American has a multitude of meanings, but its most prolific is that being American means to be free.
As fireworks lit the night sky over Rita Blanca Lake and everyone from young children to senior citizens oohed and awed at their bright and colorful explosions, the symbolism of the fireworks may not necessarily have been appreciated as stated in the “Star Spangled Banner.” “And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.” Wars were definitive when a country’s flag was captured and replaced with the enemy’s, a strategic move long since replaced by technological advances that don’t require literally “taking” the enemy’s flag. Fireworks bursting overhead are symbolic of bombs bursting in air, lighting the sky and allowing soldiers to make sure that their flag still flew, no matter how tattered or torn. Even if the symbolism has faded somewhat, the feeling of pride to be an American grows ever steadily. The Americans watching the fireworks bursting in air over Rita Blanca were very proud and grateful to be American.
Being American includes those who go off to distant wars, and it also includes the guy who shows up to work each day to tune up cars, or the kid who delivers the paper every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or the woman who watches everyone else’s children while they are at work. Being American is a cooperative effort whose responsibility falls on everyone’s shoulders collectively. Being American is one of the most important responsibilities in the world, and the 4th of July celebration each year is an opportunity for Americans to take stock, reflect and recommit themselves to being a part of the land of the free and home of the brave. So if the tune up man didn’t do the greatest job this time, or the kid threw the paper in the bushes this time, or the kids came home crying from daycare this time, forgiveness should be easily given because there is no other place on earth like America and no other feeling like being American. The bombs bursting in air over American skies are symbols and not real, and Americans are safe in a country that values its citizens.