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4th of July

July 27, 2008

It is almost the end of the month and I am finally managing to write about the Fourth of July. That is a testament to my (lack of) ability to stay on top of my posting. Though I never intended for this to be a multi-post-per-day kind of blog, this kind of slacking is definitive proof that I am not cut out for the blogosphere. I need some lessons from my wife, who just now looked over my shoulder and commented about the timing of this entry.

There’s not really much to say about the day. We spent most of the day on the beach, as did the rest of the state, by the looks of it. Waikiki is usually tourist territory, but on the fourth the locals poured out of the mountains to camp out for three days of barbecues and blowing shit up.

I guess I intended for this post to be more a random reflection on my impressions of this most American of holidays, my first in nine years.

The names by which the holiday goes have already been co-opted by two Hollywood flicks that pretty much sum up the gamut of emotions and associations the fourth stirs up. I couldn’t start writing this post without thinking of them – maybe more a reflection of my diseased pop culture-riddled mind than any profound statement on the state of the nation… But I reckon I’m not alone in having such thoughts.

Let’s look at these movies more closely, which are, in their respective ways, tied pretty deeply to what Independence Day is all about: empowerment through violence. The former movie, is, in typical Oliver Stone fashion, a rejection of such values. It views this force, which once upon a time united a people to liberate themselves from a bunch of tea-drinking, wig-wearing, oppressive-tax-imposing poms, as ultimately corrosive. The latter is a piece of comic bookish, lightweight, idiotic fluff featuring a whole lot of pyrotechnics and empty speechifying. Leaving aside the question of how firmly the producers’ tongues were planted in cheek, the flick appears to be intended as a celebration of that plucky American spirit that, in our mythology, is adept at throwing off the yoke of oppression, usually in a way that involves blowing up lots of shit.

In Hawaii there don’t seem to be any laws controlling the detonation of fireworks, and in and around Kapiolani Park Beach, where we had settled to watch the Ala Moana fireworks, everyone was setting off firecrackers, cherry bombs and sparklers. The constant explosions sent a fog of smoke drifting out across the water. Closing one’s eyes, it might have sounded very much like one of the war zones where US troops are engaged, with the chatter of gunfire and shouting soldiers constantly in the background.

In reality, it was a true celebration of that irrepressible American optimism, and a ritual bonding. There were tourists on the beach, and there were locals, all coming together to recognize a common feeling. There were no patriotic speeches or moments of silence for fallen comrades in distant lands. Maybe those subtexts were there, unspoken, but more than that, it was about enjoying a national spirit. If the expression of that is kind of primordial – the grilling of meat and the exploding of toy bombs – well, yes, you can read a lot into that, but the sense of fun and kinship it brings is undeniable.

Happy belated fourth!

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