Love ya, Uncle Sam!

When did Uncle Sam start looking like a buff Charlie Sheen?

The 4th of July.  Independence Day. America’s birthday.

It’s the holiday where we celebrate the country we’ve become.  A day when we temporarily set aside upside-down mortgages and way too many people out of work, to gather at a fireworks display or launch a friendly war in our neighborhood.

It’s not a great time for pets.  Something about sounds that resemble gunshots that unnerves them.  Perhaps they’re more intelligent than we realize.

I’ve used this space to reflect, to remember, to recall some of those memories stuffed inside my brain.  These days, the 4th of July means emceeing the annual “Freedom Festival” parade through downtown Bothell.  They record my comments as the marchers go by, then replay it on the city cable channel for the next six months, just in case you missed it.

Going back as far as I can remember, we were in South Dakota as kids around one 4th.  Back there, because there’s more land than buildings, firecrackers were plentiful.  Even as 6-year-olds, you could get a bunch and light ‘em off.  City kids like my sisters and me were amazed they’d let children do that.

As I got older, my mom would pry a couple of bucks out of dad’s grip to get us some of those “Safe & Sane” fireworks. It was the 1960s and you could take some “snakes” and light them, creating this long, ash serpent.  Or Smokey Joe, who had a cigar that you’d light and then, “Oh my gosh!!!—It’s smoking!”  Dad’s 4th of tradition was watching them while saying, “I don’t know why we don’t just take a $20 bill and light it on fire.”

As I got older, the family would spend the night of the 4th down on a hill near the beach to watch the fireworks off the pier on Redondo Beach.  Years later, when I had a family of my own, we’d join the neighbors in the cul-de-sac and ritualisticly  sacrifice hundreds of dollars in reservation fireworks.  The team of Safe & Sane was run out of town.

Oh, sure, there were some close calls.  I know neighbor Matt still remembers the time my son Tyson lit a display that tipped over as he ran away, attacking multiple neighbors but somehow, no one was injured.  Matt was in the direct line of fire and managed to duck for cover as the explosions surrounded him.

Of course, every year’s celebration was followed with a huge Sweepfest, as we piled up garbage cans out in the street to let them cool down until the next morning.

I know a lot of people who hold up countries around the world as being better than the United States.  They do ‘this’ better, they do ‘that’ better…and, being thousands of miles away, are thought of fondly.  Why, if they’re that great, these people don’t move there, I can’t answer.

Oh, wait, I can—America rocks.  For all of its problems, for all of its political bickering, in spite of all the Lindsay Lohans and Kardashian sisters, this little country is the only place I’ll ever be able to call home.

Don’t like it hot? Move to where its cooler.  Less rain? There are lots of drier spots inside the borders.

Best of all, WE get to decide.  There’s no government agency dictating where we live, how much we can spend, or how best our money is spent.  Like I said, we’re far from perfect, but we’ve got so much that we sometimes overlook the abundance of freedom we enjoy.

Cherish it.  Enjoy it! Yell out a “USA!” today and feel good about it.

Happy 4th of July everyone and God Bless America.

Tim Hunter

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