Independence Day

I’m already dreading the multitude of articles, TV pieces, etc, that will frame this week’s handover in Iraq with our Independence Day celebrations here in America.  Seems tailor made, doesn’t it?

But thinking on the Fourth, for a moment . . . This will be my first San Francisco July 4th.  The past 4 years have seen me in different places (with different partners, but that’s a different story) celebrating the holiday in similar ways.  But I wonder how this change of setting will change the party.

Two years ago, I lounged in the grass framing a posh East Sacramento home, watching the neighbors parade by (literally) with kids in festooned red wagons and firemen with shiny trucks waving at the bbq-ers and watermelon eaters waving back.  Oh the undeniable Americana of it all . . . .  We ate all day – burgers, hotdogs, strawberries, you know, the usual.  We swam.  We sunburned.  We lit off surplus fireworks from the local fundraising booth at which we’d been volunteering until god-knows-how-late.

Last year, same menu, but in Los Angeles, listening to a close friend’s stories of his recent journalistic travels in the Middle East, watching local fireworks, and several more, Mraz-like, from the freeway, late at night.

But this year, I’m Bay Area bound – away from my family and the familiar, I wonder what the 4th looks like here.  Not to bow to stereotype, but in anti-war Baghdad by the Bay, America looks different.  There aren’t many lights at Christmas.  There aren’t many flags on Memorial Day – will there be any on the Fourth?  My plans include partying in Emeryville (from which 3 or 4 big fireworks shows can be seen around the Bay, so I’m told).  The menu?  Truly American, said my hostess, eclectic and diverse.  My mouth was set for turkey dogs and hamburgers – but the main dish?  Enchiladas.  And it is beautiful that way.

In a city where the flags are more often rainbow than red-white-and-blue, and the voters are usually bluer than the red rest of the country, patriotism is expressed as much in how we break traditional notions of American as it is in how we celebrate it.  And if dissent truly is the most American expression of patriotism, then I can’t imagine where I’d have a more independent Independence Day.

[This piece is cross-posted at Phoblographer*]

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