Carol Forsloff — The Fourth of July in the United States is a holiday that celebrates the birth of America, its freedom from the domination of England and its independence. It is also a day for family and community picnics, big celebrations and fireworks. But for many people, the economy and the modern culture has removed those traditional ideals, as the divisions of family and country continue to promote separation at every level.
So while the country experienced the Great Depression, along with it were buried those values that tied people together, as the technology, mass communication and mass transit empowered people to move from place to place with ease. But it also changed or removed traditional family ties and long-term friendships.
For most people, the stereotype set by childhood remains about Fourth of July events, Easter egg hunts, Christmas trees and gifts with images of Santa Claus and Christ intermingled with songs honoring both at the Christmas season, and a host of other holidays that slip by for many people as just another day. But that is not something people admit.
In Hawaii when a party was scheduled for Christmas day for an office of co-workers, more than 75% of those invited came, with nowhere else to go on the special day. Even those with families said thank you for the invitation, while seeming uneasy in admitting the separation that had occurred, the lack of interest, the values that had changed.
At a local senior center a woman with eight grown children was producing pictures for a group of friends of her brood and her grandchildren also. When asked how she spent Christmas, she remarked, “I had a great time. I finished a wonderful Chinese brush painting.” And where were the children and grandchildren? She said, “They are awfully busy, and I know they have important things to do. So I paint, and that’s fine.”
The old woman’s story is not unique, but it is unique in her admission of a cultural shift that has become not just an American issue but an international one. The economic chaos, weather calamities, and social and political uncertainties, coupled with the great disasters of the last decade, have led to this cultural shift, a shift that had been growing before, but that has accelerated with the economic woes that keep people in a constant state of depression, the kind that keeps people isolated from each other and from friends and family. It is easier to relate to the pictures on a screen than meet face to face with a cousin who asserts his or her political views as needing full attention and adoption or the mutual stories of woe that come up when people assemble and discuss the affairs of the day.
Today is July 4, 2012, a day that may live in the memory of many, as just another day. But for those who continue the memories and the wishes of those old traditions, let those who care raise the banner of belief with a smile and a voice that says, “Happy holiday to all and a good wish for all those who love their country and each other.”
And here’s a gift from Green Heritage News Network/The Journal of Humanitarian Affairs to Americans and to people around the world that there are traditions that remain in our hearts in song and in pictures, which is here.