Recently, I was a guest at the lovely Ft. Lauderdale Yacht Club for their Independence Day celebration. It was especially picturesque–complete with happy children splashing in the pools, an enormous cookout, and open bar. Under a large, poolside high-ceiling cabana, slowly revolving fans generated a lush tropical breeze for the adults seated below as they tried to resist the temptation of “just a little” food-coma nap. I prefer to call it caloric-overload meditation. Yummmmmmmm.
Suddenly, a very animated 4-year child ran up to his grandfather with an earsplitting announcement instantly crashing my meditation and ruining nap time for most others.
“Look, Granddad!” he proclaimed. He waved a small American Flag on a stick that had been part of a nearby table decoration.
“It’s the fireworks flag! Here!” He shoved at the flag into the grandfather’s hands and sped away to play with the other sugar-buzzed yuppie larva.
But it was nearly showtime. Large yachts tied to the docks (I like big boats, and I can’t deny it) outlined a grassy peninsula adjacent to the cabana. Families, including the grandfather and grandkid, now moved to the grassy area of the small peninsula where they positioned themselves on blankets. Anchored in the waterway nearby was a floating pyrotechnics-packed platform. Darkness arrived. Anticipation was high. It was almost showtime.
“Granddad!” the child pointed to several other American flags flying from the nearby boats, “more fireworks flags!”
This time the grandfather asked, “Why do you call it the ‘fireworks’ flag?”
He answered immediately:
“Because the flags mean fireworks are coming!”
BOOM! The first fireworks volley began. The 4-year old instinctively burrowed into his grandfather’s embrace.
In a few seconds, the grandchild cautiously peeked into the sky marveling at the loud, colorful spectacle above him. He quickly learned the language of fireworks mastering “Oooooh” and “Ahhhh” and all verb conjugations.
By now, I’m sure you’ve figured out the grandchild is mine. And, that evening the 4-year old taught his youthful, virile, and ahem, studly grandfather a lesson in perception. I never saw the “fireworks flag” coming.
As depicted in the movie Truman, you accept the world you are born into as proper and correct, framing your world and forming perceptions from a circular combination of behavior modeling, negative/positive reinforcement, observation, et al.
In my grandboy’s world, if he saw an American Flag, a fireworks show would soon follow.
In a few years though, he will learn “the why” behind the 4th of July celebration and the sweeping, world-changing effects of that pivotal event.
He will discover our fight for independence was a horrific, brutal, and savage clash that put into place individual freedoms of speech, press, the right to bear arms, assembly, and religion. He will understand this was an agonizing period of such suffering that history books today cannot describe it.
He will develop a sense of awe for those America-Founding Fathers, and the enormous obstacles overcome in writing arguably, the second most pervasive document in the history of man by consensus of a group.
Well-known is their signatures severed ties with Great Britain. But, their actions also put themselves at the top of King George III’s “Most Wanted Dead or Alive List” immediately. They had to succeed, or they and all like-minded colonists were dead.
He will recognize the dangerous dichotomy produced by those 56 signatures; complete independence from Great Britain could be the only outcome. There could be no compromise, no middle ground, no striking a balance, no give and take, no happy medium. With this bold action, these delegates pledged to each other, all thirteen colonies, and all future Americans, their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.
The grandboy will learn those citizen soldiers defending the declaration were poorly trained, poorly equipped, yet took on the world’s best military; the best trained, best equipped, the most experienced, and won.
But, winning the war was only step one. The next step was hammering out the US Constitution. The result of that incredible document was the forever-fusing of three simple words; a pronoun, an article, and a noun.
These three words were a sweeping expression of the American mind and immediately became an American Cultural touchstone. “We The People” was revolutionary political thought in the late 18th century. Even today, these three words are unwelcome in many lands.
He will recognize the brilliance of our Founding Fathers’ vision; that individual freedom, individual choice, and the dignity placed by this culture on the individual supersede everything else, and particularly, government overreach. He will soon realize that this nation is like no other.
However, he and his future fellow Americans must recognize the flame of individual freedom is today and has always been in peril; targeted by violent individuals, both foreign and domestic who fear the power of the individual — particularly in a culture that places this strength, this force, above everything.
He and his generation must be vigilant. The threats from complacent citizens or worse, those who conspire to erode this unique cultural and political structure for their own personal or political gains are real. Protecting the creation of those three words is critical.
But for now, it’s the “Fireworks Flag,” and that’s OK.