I am not a fan of the 4th of July.
But it’s not because I don’t love my country–I do–it’s because the holiday has become little more than an excuse to drink and blow things up. Rather than rant about the lunacy of letting random drunk people light fireworks until 2 AM, I am going to share a piece I wrote my freshman year of college. I adapted it a little bit. Enjoy.
“And it came to pass that he [Moroni] rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof and wrote upon it–in memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives and our children–and he fastened it upon the end of a pole (Alma 46:12).
During the wars between the Nephites and the Lamanites, Captain Moroni needed to motivate his people. Why exactly were they fighting? Was their fighting justified? The Title of Liberty was a reminder to the Nephites of what they were fighting for. It was a symbol of freedom they desired: a symbol of freedom they once had.
The United States flag is a symbol of freedom and strength. Being an Air Force brat, my dedication to the flag may seem out of the norm for people my age. Ever since I was young, I was taught to salute the flag and respect it always. At Girl’s Camp for church, the first event every morning was a flag ceremony. And the first flag to go up was never the Montana flag or a Mormon flag (we don’t really have one anyway)–it was the American flag. As squirrely girls at 6 AM, we still had the good sense and respect for our country to be quiet as the flag was raised.
In the middle of my senior year of high school, the Gulf War began. We lived on an Air Force Base in Montana, and security was tight. Emotions were high as the Air Force kids dreaded their fathers and mothers being deployed, and many civilian kids blamed the government for getting involved over a big oil field. I remember my best friend Jen lashing out at a kid who had some anti-war statement scribbled into his jean jacket. School was not a fun place to be during that war.
So the administration decided to calm us down with a pep rally. They thought it would unify the school and give us a much-needed break. We all wandered into the gym and into our respective sections. As was the custom with all pep rallies, the color guard presented the flag and the band played the national anthem. The arrangement was the same–one trumpet began the anthem, then another joined in harmony, and the rest of the band faded in throughout the piece.
But this time was different. There was a reverence in that sweaty gym as the color guard brought out the flag. All eyes were on it as the first trumpet began to play. The building was so silent, so peaceful. I was embarrassed at the tears welling up in my eyes, until I say Jen wipe away a tear from her face. I had never before felt proud to be an American. That day, I knew the flag stood for freedom. That freedom was being threatened, and the flag was a reminder to all that we would stop at nothing to preserve that freedom.
This 4th of July, take just a minute, maybe two, and think about why we celebrate it at all. It’s about freedom. It’s about speaking against or in favor of what our government is doing. Voting. Worshipping as we wish. Sure, the sales are nice, and the barbecues yummy, and the fireworks pretty. But Independence Day, just like the flag, means so much more.