Kage Baker loved the Fourth of July.
Part of it was because Kage loved the United States of America. She had a deep, personal, everyday sort of patriotism – she wasn’t much of a flag waver, she simply did her duty by her country as it requested it of her. She always voted, and always knew the issues – she understood the laws, and she abided by them as best she could. When she thought the laws or the issues were in the wrong, she campaigned against them: all according to the rules.
Kage worked at voting booths, and volunteered on public land campaigns. She protested injustice. She signed petitions, but always read them first. She paid her taxes. She sent her menfolk off to war when it was necessary; she’d have gone herself, if any portion of the Armed Forces would have had her … but even the Postal Service threw up its hands in horror (her health was always fragile), which was awfully fortunate for the story-telling business.
But what Kage really, really loved about the Fourth – was fireworks. Fireworks were a psychoactive experience for her; she lost her mind when the sparks began to fly, and was blissfully in another dimension as long as the display lasted. If she’d had the chance to be a gunner for the USA, she’d have been in paradise.
I love our country, too. These last couple of years, that has grown increasingly difficult and dangerous: but I do love it. I do my duty as well as I can, including all those everyday acts of patriotism that – since January 20th – have become subjects of scorn and disapproval from an especially loud, judgemental, and nasty minority of our population. It’s all made a bit more difficult since that minority seems to include Congress and increasing portions of the Executive branch. Still, one soldiers on as best one can.
I love my country; I fear my government. On the other hand, if my civics and history teachers could see how much attention I pay to current events these days, those good ladies would be astounded. I hope they’d be gratified, too. I am au courant with politics as I have never been in my life, and there aren’t even any tests pending! No marks will be given for how well I understand what is going on in the halls of power. But I fondly hope that it might mean better, longer lives for a lot of people, including me.
It’s never been a good time to rest on our laurels. Maintaining freedom, civil rights, a working democracy, that fabled government of, by and for the people: these have never been easy, and every time we sit back and decide we’ve Made It – something bad comes along to bite us on our fat, self-congratulatory asses, and make us fight for the Good Side again. This is one of the most obviously endangered Fourths of July in my lifetime: but it’s always been a fight, really. We need to pay attention. We need to be vigilant.
We need to take care of our people, our land, our world, our government. And it’s not a bad placed to start – with barbecues and picnics, with singing the National Anthem as the sky lights up in glory, and each of us stands side by side with people we love. We just have to remember that it’s not only for today, not only for tonight. We have to remember to get up tomorrow morning, and do most of it all over again. Not just the fun bits, either.
Though it won’t hurt to enjoy them today. The smoke from celebratory fires and victorious fireworks is needed, too. We need to make a glorious light in the sky, if only to remind ourselves of the beauties for which we fight.
Happy Birthday, America. Long may you wave, long may you be be the home of the free, long may the better angels of our natures carry the victory for all our people.