The Fourth of July slipped in as the torrid heat of summer was trying to slip out, thankfully. Any more of those triple-digit temperatures and we all may be singing “Oh, Say Can You Sweat” instead of the proper lyrics of our National Anthem. And what a frightful and deadly variety of fireworks displays Mother Nature put on during the days leading up to our annual celebration of the birth of our country!
However you celebrated the Fourth of July, I hope you felt the same exhilaration that I feel when I fly my flag, enjoy a fireworks display and hear the stirring music that sings of America’s sacrifices and her greatness. I hope you thought about the freedoms our country enjoys, also, and realized the sacrifices that made the celebration possible.
Fourth of July celebrations of my youth did not include the music we hear during freedom celebrations today, but I became familiar with some of them in music appreciation classes at school. I learned others from patriotic movies in the theaters in downtown Rocky Mount, and from those I heard on radio broadcasts.
The music stirred and still stirs my soul, but I looked forward more to the watermelons and other celebrations in the neighborhood. The highlight of the celebration for us was fireworks. My brother and I were fortunate that we had an uncle who saw to it that we had plenty of fireworks at Christmas, which were not illegal then, and some were usually saved just for the Fourth of July. If none were saved, my enterprising brother – the one nearest my age – (the older brother was in the U.S. Navy) always managed to get fireworks from somewhere, and I never asked where because I did not pry into his business. Frankly, I was afraid to, because he was bigger.
Fireworks can be dangerous and are best handled by adults.
I was always cautioned by Mama: “Don’t get your fingers blown off” and to my brother: “You make sure you look after him and don’t let him get hurt. You hear?”
She need not have worried; he only gave me the smallest ones, keeping the others all for himself and his friends. Only one firecracker ever blew up in my fingers, and my speed at lighting them and throwing them away increased tremendously.
The Fourth of July and fireworks just go together and I like the fireworks extravaganzas. The colors they release in the air as they explode and boom bring back the “bombs bursting in air” verse of our National Anthem, written as a poem by Francis Scott Key in 1814, depicting a scene from the War of 1812.
America declared her independence from Britian in 1776 in the midst of the Revolutionary War. In the 236 years since that time, she has engaged every enemy that has threatened that freedom and won.
Things have changed in America since I exploded my first firecracker. We have been able to enjoy freedoms that many countries do not have, but now, sometimes, we act as if we do not appreciate them or the sacrifices made to guarantee that we keep them. I hope we never forget the lives that were lost in protecting those freedoms.
Oh, sometimes we fight among ourselves for various reasons, but we are still one country and will fight for each other if our national freedoms are threatened.
America always has given credit to God for preserving our freedoms, and we use godly symbols to show the world our reliance on Him for our prosperity.
We use “In God we trust” on our currency, and “under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance. Those, also, are freedoms we fought and died for.
It seems that America is still under attack – by Americans, who treat the Ten Commandments as just “suggestions” that no longer matter and, if allowed, they would remove other forms of our dependence upon God.
So it behooves us to stay in the fight against tyranny, even on the homefront.
If we lose those battles, we have lost the war, and future Fourth of July celebrations will not keep America afloat.
Bill Stancil is a freelance writer and former staff member of the Rocky Mount Telegram.