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Monday, September 22, 2014
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Published: Friday, 7/4/2014

CULTURE SHOCK

A flag wave and a hello to the Fourth

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Early holiday deadlines necessitate writing my weekly column more than a week and ½ before you’re reading these words. But the allure of a column that happens to fall on July 4 is simply too great to ignore.

So my quandary is writing about Independence Day days before the nation is in rabid patriotic fervor.

The fireworks stands are out, sure, and the nation is still buzzing over the U.S. soccer team’s dramatic tie, and how close we came to pulling off the great upset before losing to the Belgians in the quarterfinals.

But I’m not sensing that swell of national pride that comes every year on this day, and apparently not a minute before or after. Which is strange to me, as someone who begins to celebrate his birthday a month or two in advance. (Ask my wife.)

There’‍s just no build up to July Fourth. Not like other holidays.

It’s easy to get in the spirit of Christmas with our months-long ramp-up of pushy shopping reminders come fall. After all, nothing says Christmas like “Zeptember” and “Rocktober.”

Even with the floating Thursday of Thanksgiving Day, we are well into the spirit of the family feast by mid-November because of to-do lists: meal shopping and preparations, house cleaning for guests or packing for travel. The same sentiment applies to spring’‍s Easter Day, only with slightly less food and considerably more eggs.

And then there’s Independence Day, a non-religious celebration of our nation’s 238th birthday this year (be honest, how many of you knew how old our country is turning?), which receives little if any attention until today.

Perhaps we’re too wrapped up in our summer -- movies, vacations, kids’ camps and activities -- to even think about a future date, yet it’s little more than a week before the Fourth of July and I’ve seen few reminders of the holiday anywhere.

There are no July Fourth-themed movie marathons weeks before the day to help get us into the patriotic spirit.

There aren’t the obnoxious July Fourth-themed commercials featuring Uncle Sams and Dead Presidents to remind us our nation’s birthday is really about saving money on new and used cars, furniture, and clothes. (Maybe that’‍‍s a good thing.)

There are no patriotic music marathons on the radio (John Philip Sousa, the Andrews Sisters) or the parade of July Fourth cartoons and claymation specials.

Unlike Valentine’‍s Day and Arbor Day, Independence Day doesn’‍‍t even get a Peanuts cartoon -- though there is an eight-part series This is America, Charlie Brown from 1988, which includes The Birth of the Constitution.

Yet, even even as I write this column a week before July 4, I know that today I can peruse my Facebook newsfeed and see the annual patriotic postings from friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances, et al. reminding me of the day’s importance and how great it is to be an American.

Polls and Washington partisanship suggest the United States is a deeply divided nation, but today and today only we’‍‍re all patriots who bleed red, as well as white and blue, and who are unanimous in supporting our troops, believing the USA is A-OK, and ensuring Lee “Proud to be an American” Greenwood enjoys 24 hours of relevance.

Come Saturday, however, it’‍‍s time to put away that American spirit and unity, and get back to the squabbling that’‍s made our country and its democracy so great. And let’‍‍s not forget the important Holiday countdown.

After all -- not to frighten everyone -- as of today Christmas is only 175 days away.

Contact Kirk Baird at kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.



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