The front cover of the print edition of the The Times this morning strikes the perfect note. The world may be appallingly disheveled, the economy tortured, our leadership confirmed in its worthlessness, the weather as cheerless and unpromising as the bleakest winter day, but this week and particularly on our birthday Thursday, there is every reason to be joyful. We, and Americans everywhere, may find ourselves reflected in the scene conjured by the photographers and graphic artist who made the page one image. We are all there, grateful, free, and primed to party.
Enough grouchiness, for the moment. Enough about the phone poles and the Roundabout. 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. Give us time, and we will throw the bums out. We will protect and conserve what must be saved. We will discard worn out, unhelpful ways. We will perfect ourselves and our union, as those who came before us strove to do. We will survive the miserable weather.
But today, and just in time, along comes Independence Day to drain away the bile and revive us with the clarifying sense of satisfaction and pride that Americans, freer than any people on earth, are entitled to enjoy. Look up, and smile. Find yourself in the page one picture of the moment. This is the Glorious Fourth.
The national birthday is a moment 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 are here 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 unmodern 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 which 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. 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 waves from the insides of 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. The Second Continental Congress endorsed it a year after the “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, and unrestrained, as the nation has been and, one hopes, will always be. And, it is for Vineyarders a moment in early summer when we drop our customary, seasonal back-off attitude and instead say, “Bring it on.”