The glorious national birthday we celebrate on Monday invites us to drop our guard against the off-Island world 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 here 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 which 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, symbols of what they did for us and in that sense untarnished by passing years. They will march. Political leaders, who mostly will do anything, will join the parade, too; and the spectators, who know the politicians for who they are, will enjoy their magisterial participation and their waves from the insides of convertibles they do not own.
There will be screaming fire trucks and the antique pumper which 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 Second Continental Congress adopted “Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America.” 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 join up, here’s a holiday worth celebrating, and that’s just what we’re going to do.