Editorial : Fabulous Fourth
The glorious national birthday we celebrate Saturday 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.
Here, 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 which knows what it means to be free and values its independence above all.
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. Then, there was enormous fear and uncertainty among Americans, similar perhaps to our uneasiness today. Then, there was also brave determination to realize the promise and challenge set forth in the Declaration of Independence of one year earlier. The precepts so eloquently and unequivocally set forth in the galvanizing words of the Declaration are today, nearly two and a half centuries later, are all that we are about as a nation. They say what we are, all that we are, and Saturday we celebrate them once more.
Many of our fellow celebrants will be strangers, from far-off New York or Boston, or even L. A. Their customs will not always comport with our own. We will puzzle them, and they will have us waggling our heads in wonder and disbelief. At such moments, it will do no harm to remember, and may do a very great deal of good, that they and we, different as we may be, are all children of the Declaration. What the Declaration means to us, it means to them.
The July Fourth celebration 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, one hopes, drop their customary seasonal back-off attitude and instead say welcome.