Missing: The 4th of July

Has anybody seen the fourth of July? You remember, Independence Day? It’s gone missing. I wonder if anyone has caught a glimpse of it, because I haven’t seen a sign of it in Lake Park this year. Come to think of it, it seemed to go missing 2-3 years back, never to be heard from again in this town. If you hear from it or see any evidence it’s still being celebrated at large, please let me know. I’d like to stand in awe and give it the honor it deserves.

I took a drive around town today to see if I could find any nods to this incredibly important day in our national and personal history, but I came home discouraged and disappointed. I counted the flags displayed by residents as I drove up and down the blocks, but if I’d had a 5 year old with me, they could have probably kept the tally for me in their head.  Just over 50 homes displayed flags (and I drove all but a few streets of residential Lake Park). That’s out of 9,000 residents. Perhaps this correlates to the recent voter-turnout-to-resident ratio in the recent special election.

Acknowledgement of the holiday was glaringly absent on town signage today as well. Wow. Not a banner, not a mention of Independence Day, not hint that today is our nation’s birthday or that we owe so much to the history and sacrifice behind it.

                                           Lake Park Town Hall, July 4th, 2011

Sure, we’ll celebrate and expend untold energy to celebrate art, diversity, and even the sunset in this town, for goodness sake, but what about this holiday whose significance outshines all the rest of what we do put together.

Well, something was waving in the breeze on Park Ave., our town’s official main street,  the place where Town Hall gives a shout out to what it values. They are telling us right there what is important to them, and it isn’t giving honor to the rich history of our nation or a celebration of the traditions of individual freedom. What was proudly displayed on street lamps along the business district this 4th of July wasn’t American flags but professionally designed CRA banners, hoisted high, pointing our attention to “the town cause”. I think it’s worth taking notice of what our town wants us to honor and admire. I’m sad to say, it isn’t the founding principles of our nation’s forbearers or the remembrance or honor of our personal liberty for which so many have fought, bled and died that they are pointing to.

                                                   Park Avenue, July 4th, 2011

It’s not even just the sacred traditions that are missing. Simple traditional celebrations have gone AWOL as well. Lake Park was once a gathering place for neighbors on the weekend before the 4th of July. This was a big day and one that attracted residents from neighboring towns to join us in celebrating Independence Day with fanfare, encouraging a common love of country and an honor for the values that formed this liberating self-government. Events, fireworks and music swelled the day like a big red, white and blue balloon. Kids saw there was something there that mattered enough to devote a day and a night to it, and we all gathered together to honor this freedom.

Kelsey Park, Lake Park, FL, July 4th, 2011 No celebration again this year

But an effort has been made to change our history and our traditions. “Shhhhh…the kids don’t need to know about that old stuff.” Quietly, the meaningful things that bind us together under a common cause and sense of purpose have been set aside. Children are growing up without a knowledge or appreciation of our nation’s history, and they are not being pointed to even the most basic of American traditions. They are no longer taught to honor the flag, the constitution or the Declaration of Independence, nor other founding documents; those that remind us of our precious freedom and the responsibilities that go along with it. If you think about it, the younger ones may not even know parades and fireworks displays and patriotic music exist or ever did. How will they carry on a dedication to this great country and learn the truth of their rights, freedoms, and what it took to secure them or how to hold onto them, if we let these traditions and celebrations quietly disappear?

This change to our traditions has come about in part under the guise of budget cuts. Calling it a financial decision shuts people up and fast. Those who want to change our traditions know people are worried about their wallets and they can always say, “hey, we just don’t have it in the budget.” But take a look a the budget and tell me about the comparative value of some of what is being funded there. Where are the wallet woes when art is involved, for example?

That’s it. Just an observation. I think it’s important to pay attention and notice not only what is going on, but also what isn’t. What are they telling us about what matters? And is their voice the one we want to be listening to on matters of such importance?

Whose voice are you listening to?

Oh, and if you hope to see a church or the elementary school in Lake Park displaying any sign of our nation’s birthday, you’re out of luck there too.

                                                   Lake Park Elementary, July 4th, 2011

Not only is there not even a “Happy 4th of July” on the Town Hall sign or any other usual town display area, such as Kelsey Park; not one of the 4 churches I passed in this town, nor the elementary school had a mention of it either.

So let me simply say it myself. Happy 235th birthday America! May Lake Park as well as small towns and big cities across the country who have allowed this holiday to disappear from their consciousness, wake up soon and realize that something valuable is at stake.

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