Editorial : A clarifying sense of gratitude
As a community, we grouse too much. We deplore too much. We complain too much. We nag too much. We spend too much time demanding new rules to stop our neighbors and friends from enjoying themselves. We are crabbed and fretful, and we are increasingly convinced that our leaders are criminals - or would be criminals if we could only catch and try them. At the same time, testifying to a gross failure of introspection, we also admire ourselves too much. It's one thing or the other with us.
But happily, here comes Independence Day to drain away the bile and the fear, to humble and revive us with the clarifying sense of gratitude that we, along with Americans everywhere, are freer than any other people on earth.
This glorious national birthday is a moment to drop our guard against the off-Island world as well as our near neighbors and to consider the marvelous connections we have with the vast palette of Americans, quite a few of whom have chosen to celebrate their independence with us.
The Fourth is a grand, old-time celebration, and in keeping with the Vineyard's stubborn adherence in most things to revered past practice, whether for good or ill, we shall celebrate it in the ways we always have.
There will be barbecues and fireworks and beach picnics and relatives, and there will be the parade in Edgartown - little changed over the years, wonderfully down to earth - expressive not just of the town that is the county seat, but of the Vineyard as a whole. And visitors, as well as residents, will line the route to smile at the simplicity of it, the silliness of it, the unspectacular and authentic character of a community that knows what it means to be free and values its independence above all.
Veterans will squeeze themselves into musty, treasured uniforms untarnished by passing years. They will march, remembering when they were so brave, and then when they were so sad. Political leaders will join the parade, too; and the spectators, who know the politicians for who they are, will enjoy their magisterial participation and waving from seats in convertibles they do not own.
There will be screaming fire trucks and the antique pumper that the company draws by hand along the route. And clowns and kids, and more political and nonprofit messages than you can shake a stick at. What fun.
The first celebration of Independence Day occurred in Philadelphia in July 1777, a year after the "Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America" was adopted by the Second Continental Congress. It became, after the end of the War of 1812, the nation's greatest secular holiday. And it remains so: noisy, happy, lively, unrestrained, a moment at early summer when Islanders drop their customary seasonal back-off attitude and instead say, come on, fortunately, we all have something grand to celebrate.