Happy 244th Birthday to the United States of America!
With COVID-19 ravaging our nation, this July 4th is odd one, don’t you think? Celebrations are being trimmed back or cancelled all across the nation as we acknowledge this deadly killer. But even as the virus drives us into our homes and isolation, events have drawn us out to the streets, and national talking points have turned to America’s racist past …and present. Pandemics and transitions go hand-in-hand, according to the historians, and I believe I am one of many who hope that our transition from this pandemic will be a beneficial one.
Holidays, as most of us know, switch the mind to rewind and we relive moments from past gatherings and celebrations. Those memories are likely to be particularly welcome this year. My mind casts back to the summer of 1976 — the Bicentennial — when the U.S.A. turned 200.
I was in Washington, D.C. at the time, not quite 30 years old and living just eight blocks
from the Capitol Building. It was an exciting time and would become even more exciting when just four months later my late husband became the first legal, medical cannabis patient in the United States. Robert and I had been raised in the 1950s, a time of great patriotic fervor, and we had a sense of destiny in that summer of 1976. July 4, 1976 gave us reason to celebrate and we seized it.
Organizing about a dozen friends, we congregated along with hundreds of thousands of others on the Washington Mall. It was an extraordinary birthday party with vendors lining the streets, performers entertaining small groups of people, exhibits showing America’s history, people walking about in Colonial costuming, and legions of citizens lugging their implements of celebration — coolers, chairs and blankets — to the rapidly dwindling spaces where one could get a good view of the fireworks. The pyrotechnics did not disappoint. They were thundering and plentiful, creating a cacophony of noise and bombardment that probably had not been seen since the British burned Washington in 1814. This time, of course, was far more joyful.
Let’s hope the tricentennial celebration in July 2076 is bigger and better. In July 1976 there were protests and demonstrations, as there likely will be in 2076. Protest and demonstrations are at the very core of being an American, guaranteed in the first amendment of the Constitution. My hope is that this current time of demonstrations, in 2020, coupled with the transition that this pandemic will force on us in terms of public health reform, will create a new world order. The demonstrators of 2076 will be every color, creed and orientation and will be marching together to protest hunger in the world that will likely still exist. Or perhaps they will be demonstrating for even more action on climate control. Or perhaps they will march to celebrate the eradication of viral diseases which resulted from the commitment of nations to co-operate in a worldwide effort of sweeping public health initiatives. We are capable of succeeding with all those efforts if we listen to our better angels. ❧