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Published: Sunday, 7/3/2011

COMMENTARY

It's a day for pride, gratitude

BY MARY ALICE POWELL

The flags are in place. We have dug down deep in the drawer to retrieve the red, white, and blue T-shirt, and in many places in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan the July 4 celebration will be capped by fireworks.

The question is, will it be more than a day for a picnic or a day off from work? Or will we take time -- even 10 minutes -- between turning the hot dogs and opening a beer to realize what we are celebrating?

July 4 is Independence Day in America. Other holidays may be celebrated worldwide, but not this one. This is the one that sets aside America as a great nation and honors our forefathers who looked far into the future to protect a new nation.

The 56 courageous men who signed the Declaration of Independence represented a cross-section of backgrounds. The group included 24 lawyers and jurists, 11 merchants, and nine farmers and plantation owners. It was too early for women to be involved in politics, but I want to believe that back home around the dinner table wives and daughters offered their opinions and encouragement that led to the young nation's freedom from British rule. How privileged we are to bask in that freedom 235 years later.

They were men of means and security but who valued liberty more, knowing that by signing they faced consequences of punishment from the British. They pledged: "For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

The punishment for some of the signers was having their properties looted and destroyed and several died in poverty, according to history.

I am a devout flag waver. I love being an American, living in this beautiful country, and I make an effort to show it in more ways than decorating the house.

But each July more red, white, and blue mementoes are added to the box in the garage labeled "July 4." All are made in China, of course, and that includes several birdhouses in red, white, and blue design. Finding anything patriotic that is made in the United States is difficult.

Exceptions are flowers. Pots and baskets of red and white striped petunias, white geraniums, and blue lobelia do nicely if I remember to water them often. Small flags were added to the pots for the July 4 celebration.

Certainly the American flag makes the most impressive patriotic statement. I don't think you can have too many, in a variety of sizes.

My infatuation with the flag and its meaning was fueled many years ago as a Camp Fire Girl at Camp Tuckabatchee at Marble Lake, near Coldwater, Mich.

Camp Fire was the equivalent of Girl Scouts in Michigan. Each morning and at dusk, the flag was raised and lowered in a ceremony accompanied by the group pledging allegiance with our hands placed over our hearts.

The day I was named as the chosen camper to raise the flag was a heart-pounding honor. The flag ceremonies were quiet, solemn times in what otherwise was a week of swimming, hiking, and laughing.

Last week while shopping to see what's new this year for July 4, a quote by Thomas Jefferson printed on a wall plaque (yes, made in China) provoked food for thought.

It read "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."

Jefferson is my favorite American for many reasons. In this quotation it is as if he miraculously peeked into the United States that he helped to found and was compelled to warn Americans to pay attention and speak up.

No one enjoys a picnic and fireworks more than I do. I just hope we remember what we are celebrating and that we lift glasses of whatever in a toast, "Happy Birthday America, to our freedom."

It would also be nice to sing the national anthem, but that may be pushing the envelope.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.

Contact her at: mpowell@theblade.com.



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