It may be my imagination but somehow the July 4th American Independence celebrations seemed a little more muted than usual. They probably aren’t in reality but somehow it seems quieter. It may be how it’s present tenant in the White House is apparently approaching it or because of how that same tenant is being perceived home and abroad is causing some confliction about what is being celebrated.
It’s interesting that many commentators are going back to the historical roots of the celebrations. This article in the Washington Post, reflects on what was believed to be the last letter Thomas Jefferson, 3rd tenant of the White House wrote, declining to attend 4th of July 1826 celebrations in Washington due to ill-health. He was in fact, to die on July 4th that year.
In his letter he wrote this;
“May it be to the world what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all) the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which Monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self government. The form which we have substituted restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion.
“All eyes are opened, or opening to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth that the mass of mankind has not been born, with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately by the grace of god. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves let the annual return of this day, for ever refresh our recollections of these rights and an undiminished devotion to them.”
His belief was that each generation improves on the condition of the last and that what unites us is greater than the divisions of a given time. It was so powerful a message that it was reprinted in many places, even on scarves, as a reminder of the fundamental values the Constitution Jefferson and others had shaped and signed which is the foundation of America and which is celebrated every 4th of July.
Sadly, it would appear these are not values in much evidence in the actions of the present White House tenant for whom division and discord are daily expressions of an inherent self-interest and self-obsession that seems to leave little to celebrate.
However, I don’t really know whether the party across the water will be bigger than ever or a little more muted as a consequence of that reality. That is for our American cousins to decide and I do wish them all, however they voted last November, the very best for this most auspicious of days in their calendar.
What I do know is that every day, not just on July 4th, Cyrenians have celebrated the flourishing of human potential through the creating of positive relationships and the commitment to our neighbour and the stranger, understanding that our common humanity is the source of hope even in the toughest of realities.
Thinking about the bringing together of past and present, our older peoples befriending services, OPAL in West Lothian and Golden Years in Edinburgh, begin with the simplest of moments, a phone call, a conversation, a commitment to simply be there whilst the person who has begun to journey with us finds out where they would like that journey to go. In sharing journey we find healing and hope is possible. In a shared journey across generations, the past and the future can be brought together so lives which felt lost can be celebrated again.
6 July 2017