Fourth

File Photo by Jeff Goldberg

Backyard barbecues, pie baking contests, parades, road races, softball games and hot dog roasts.

And, of course, fireworks.

The traditions of American Independence Day celebrations go on year after year in cities and small towns.

Foods and games and activities may differ from one region of the country to another, from one culture to the next, but one thing they all have in common is bringing people together.

The “oohs” and “ahhs” of a crowd watching fireworks on blankets and lawn chairs in the park is a shared experience that encompasses all generations, ideologies, and backgrounds.

The Independence Day holiday — the Fourth of July – is a birthday for America.

It’s not Flag Day, though red, white and blue is seen everywhere. It’s not Veterans Day, thoughmany towns honor those who sacrificed for freedom.

Rather, July 4th is the day that focuses on the joys more than the sacrifices. There are parade with floats and bands. There are races – soapbox races, 5K road races, hot air balloon races. There are antique car shows and carousel rides.

Towns come alive on July 4th and the days surrounding it with the sizzle of summer from cookouts to beach outings to crowded swimming pools. It seems the region is one big party.

And why not? More than in any other city or state, this area has the bragging rights as the place where America began, the cradle of liberty.

The Declaration of Independence was penned and read aloud and signed in Philadelphia, and many ofthe events both leading up to that moment and following in the Revolution occurred from Valley Forge to Brandywine to Washington’s Crossing.

The iron forges of Berks and Chester counties supplied arms for the Revolution. The area hasmore “George Washington slept here” claims than anywhere, with the exception of his home in Virginia.

On July 4, 1776, the document declaring independence from England set the course for a nation that would grow and prosper.

Its words set forth the challenge to embark on a course that is by its very definition a little messy. These principles established a case not only for unity and sacrifice but also for discord and disagreement that can only exist in a nation founded on freedom.

The right toworship freely in the religion of one’s choice has caused the differences in beliefs that we struggle to understand to this day.

The right to protest, the right to bear arms, and the right to publish criticisms of government stir emotions and cause a mix of ideologies that keep us free to live our lives as individuals, not part of a conditioned pack.

Throughout history, there have been divisions that threatened the nation’s existence. Today, political sniping continues alongside the economicprosperity that many enjoy and that eludes others.

Independence Day is not about that sniping or those differences. It is the nation’s birthday to be enjoyed and celebrated.

Happy Birthday, America — and may there be many more.

— MediaNews Group

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