04 July 2007
The two pictures above represent our family's Independence Day traditions. On July 3, we attend a Tacoma Ranier evening baseball game.. It is almost always beautifully warm and the stadium is always full. The game is with our great rivals from Salt Lake City. Once the game is over, blankets are spread on the field and as the sun goes down, people bundle up a bit and the children snuggle in on laps for the fireworks that last for another hour.
On July 4, we have the yearly viewing of the musical 1776. At least once a year, every American should watch this musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The characters and the issues are vividly and frankly portrayed, and we see the founding fathers' faults as well as their virtues. The courage, the strategy, the dream of freedom, and even the tragic compromise on slavery are all there. If we didn't know how it all turned out, the suspense would be unbearable.
What makes this musical remarkable is that the actual speeches and letters of the founders are used as the source material for the script and songs. If you hadn't read the letters between Abigail and John, you might suspect that the movie was being a bit racy, but it's not. Those two really liked each other ... A LOT! Ben Franklin was racy all by himself. He gives "dirty old men" a good name. What is more important it doesn't dodge the hard topics ... the sacrifices made in war, the problem of slavery that couldn't be solved and still create a nation.
Those two issues are sung in "Mama Look Sharp" and "Molasses, To Rum To Slaves". Even after a quarter of century watching, these two songs still give me cold chills, because they are issues that we are still dealing with in our modern society: The sacrifice of the soldier to preserve our independence and the aftermath of slavery that still leaves a percentage of our population without the full blessings of liberty.
In this time of war, many of us are separated now by opposing viewpoints. What we all agree on is that this experiment in liberty has continued now for 231 years. To make it work we need to respect the opinions of others and their rights to express them. So go do whatever your family does on this birthday of America: Cook out, go to a game, visit a cemetery, play sports, have a big family meal - whatever are your traditions. While doing it, you might take a moment of two to read that Declaration of Independence for as good ol' Ben said, "If we don't hang together, we shall certainly hang separately".